President Mahmoud Abbas was born in the city of Safad in Mandate Palestine in 1935. In the aftermath of the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948, President Abbas and his family were forced to flee their homeland and became Palestine refugees in Syria. As a refugee in Damascus, President Abbas began working at age 13 to assist in providing for his family and continued his education at home. He resumed his preparatory studies and continued on to his secondary studies. President Abbas then joined Damascus University and received his law degree in 1958 and in 1982, received a doctorate degree from Moscow Institute of Orientalism.
President Abbas’ involvement in national and political activities began in the mid-1950s. At the time, he and a number of colleagues formed an organization ultimately giving birth to the Palestinian National Liberation Movement “Fatah” on January 1, 1965. He has been a member of Fatah’s Central Council since its inception. In 1970, President Abbas became fully involved in Palestine’s national movement.
From 1974 to 2003, President Abbas was head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Department. From 1979 to 1981, he was the head of the Palestinian-Jordanian Committee. President Abbas represented Palestine in signing the Oslo Agreement on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993. On September 23, 1995, President Abbas signed the Transition Agreement in Washington on behalf of the PLO. President Abbas was the Secretary-General of the PLO from 1996 to 2004. He was the Head of the National and International Relations Department of the PLO from 1984 to 2000. President Abbas headed the PLO’s Negotiation Affairs Department between 1974 and 2003. He was head of the Election Committee from 1996 to 2002 and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority in 2003. Following the passing of President Yasser Arafat in November 2004, President Abbas was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority in January 2005. In 2008, he was elected President of Palestine by the Palestine Central Council. President Abbas has been the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization since 2004.