Abbas' most recent move is interesting because it is a microcosm of the evolution of "Palestinian" nationalism, which moved from an uncompromising and vocal anti-Israel stance to a deceptively organized campaign seeking to undermine Jewish sovereignty step by step by making incremental gains. Abbas' campaigns at the UN are the latest in the evolution of Arab strategy to destroy Israel and end Jewish sovereignty. In the early days, the Arabs almost exclusively used organized violence. In the 1920s and 1930s, great revolts featuring massacres of Jewish populations were common place, and more often than not, the British overseers of the region were passive witnesses. In fact, in the times from the 1920 Balfour Declaration until the 1948 War, the Arabs rejected numerous attempts at peaceful resolution of the conflict, rejecting both the 1937 Peel Commission Partition Plan and the 1947 UN Partition Plan.
When the 1948 War ended, Israel's position looked untenable. Squeezed between Egypt, Jordan and the sea, the State seemed unlikely to survive. Egypt's firebrand president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, looked to solidify his position as the leader of the pan-Arabist movement by blockading the Straits of Tiran, evicting UN forces from the Sinai, and moving troops toward Egypt's border with Israel. The Six Day War, during which Israel took control of Gaza, Judea, Samaria and the Sinai, radically changed the dynamic between Israel and the Arabs. It became abundantly clear that Israel could not be defeated conventionally, and even as Arab (especially Egyptian) success in the Yom Kippur War restored Arab pride, it became clear to the Arabs that tactics had to change in order to defeat the Jewish State.
Although the PLO had been created in 1964 (at which time both Egypt and Jordan denied it any sovereignty over the lands they controlled, but were comfortable with its control of land held by Israel), the PLO did not truly emerge as a force until after the Six Day War, when it staged raids into Israel from Jordanian territory. However, when the PLO got too ambitious and started thinking it control all of the land of the former British Mandate (including Jordan), the Jordanian army evicted the PLO in a campaign to be known as Black September.
Over the next few decades, the PLO would be evicted from Lebanon and Tunisia, it was eventually allowed to return to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. One of the major developments of this period was Yasser Arafat's decision to pursue a diplomatic path to achieve the PLO's goals. One of the hallmarks of this plan was laid out in the PLO's Ten Point Program from 1974, combining tacit acceptance of interim territorial acquisitions (primarily Judea, Samaria and Gaza) with the understanding that these would be precursors to a later action to destroy Israel. The idea behind this plan (which in itself was controversial in many Palestinian circles because it was deemed insufficiently militant) was that the Palestinians should make as many interim gains and acquire as much land as possible under diplomatic arrangements with the understanding that any such gains will make further attacks and the ultimate destruction of Israel easier.