Yasser Arafat

(1929-2004)

A pistol and an olive branch

In 1974, Yasser Arafat addressed the UN General Assembly. He said he was holding an olive branch for peace in one hand and a freedom fighter's pistol in the other. Twenty years later he and the Israeli leaders Peres and Rabin received the Peace Prize for having opted for the olive branch by signing the so-called Oslo Accords in Washington. The agreement was aimed at reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Arafat grew up in Cairo and Jerusalem. He took part in the war against the new state of Israel in 1948, when many Palestinians were expelled. As a qualified engineer, he took a job in Kuwait. From there, he organized the guerrilla group Fatah, which attacked Israel. Following Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Arafat became the leader of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), an umbrella organization for Palestinian guerrilla groups. The groups resorted to terror to attract world attention, but it gradually became clear to Arafat that he would have to accept the state of Israel for the USA to be willing to mediate in the dispute. He approved the meeting of Palestinian negotiators with Israelis at secret negotiations in Oslo.

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 Nobel Peace Prize

 Yasser Arafat

 Shimon Peres

 Yitzhak Rabin