The DFLP broke away from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1969 over ideological and personal differences and became the PLO's third largest faction after Fatah and the main body of the PFLP. Nayaf Hawatmeh, founder of the DFLP, believed that the PFLP had improperly emphasized Arab/Muslim nationalism over Marxist ideology. Therefore, the Marxist DFLP, like the Marxist Muslim PFLP, has had to join the Muslim PLO to remain relevant.
Based in Damascus, Syria, Hawatmeh, the DFLP's founder, continued to participate in the PLO throughout the 1980s. Though Hawatmeh and Arafat had a spat in the mid 90s, they reconciled in 1999. Along with the importance of the DFLP, Hawatmeh's public profile has declined in recent years. He denounced the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, but no one cared.
Yasser Abed Rabbo was the co-founder and Deputy Secretary of the DFLP before he broke off relations in 1990. He then founded the Palestinian Democratic Union and has since served as chief of the PLO's information department in Tunis. Rabbo is a member of the PLO Executive Committee and was a close advisor to Arafat. He is currently the Minister for Information and Culture in the PA.