10 years later, Nobel judges stand by Arafat

By David Horovitz December 10, 2004

Exactly 10 years after Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, members of the Norwegian awards committee are adamant that they made the right choice, and that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, rather than Palestinian terrorism, was the prime factor in the collapse of the Oslo process.

On the eve of today’s 2004 award ceremony, four of the five Norwegian Nobel Committee members, including the chairman and his deputy, as well as the committee’s permanent secretary, contacted by the Post, said they still consider Arafat to have been a worthy winner. The other committee member, whom The Jerusalem Post was unable to reach, has previously expressed disappointment in Shimon Peres’s post-1994 support for the policies of Ariel Sharon and issued no reported criticisms of Arafat.

By contrast, Kaare Kristiansen, who resigned from the committee in protest against the award to Arafat, told the Post he is ‘more convinced than ever that I did the right thing,’ and that ‘in their hearts’ his former colleagues must recognize that they did not. He also claimed that the committee broke its own statutes in pressing ahead with the award despite his resignation, asserting that Alfred Nobel ‘laid down a rule saying that the decision must be unanimous.’

The committee’s secretary, Geir Lundestad, denied this, and said that no committee member has a right of veto.

Peres, meanwhile, this week told the Post that news of the award had come as a complete surprise to him at the time. He’d had no idea, he said, that he was even a candidate. ‘I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t work for it.’

This claim was ridiculed by Israeli sources closely involved, who told the Post that Peres had lobbied for months ahead of the closing date for nominations, February 1, 1994, to make sure that eligible international politicians, academics and the like were promoting his candidacy.

Indeed, the Post was told, Rabin’s office learned of Peres’s efforts only a few days before the closing date for nominations, by chance, and then scrambled to arrange for the prime minister’s nomination. Rabin considered the whole Nobel process to be premature, the Post was told.

Former Labor Knesset member Shevah Weiss, then-Knesset Speaker, who was entitled to nominate two candidates, said he recommended Rabin and Peres, and that ‘there was no pressure.’ But Peres did ‘lots of lobbying’ elsewhere, Weiss added. ‘It was only natural, no?’

Kristiansen told the Post that the committee’s original intention was not to include Peres among the recipients.

‘During the process it was clear that Rabin and Arafat were the first choice,’ he said, although consideration was also given to awarding the prize to ‘the technical people’ – a reference to the direct Oslo negotiators. ‘Actually,’ continued Kristiansen, who attended all but the committee’s final meeting, ‘I don’t know what made them choose also Peres, but the committee members from the [Norwegian] Labor Party were very [insistent] that Peres…was the main person on the Oslo accord.’

Sources close to Peres responded by calling Kristiansen’s allegations ‘ridiculous’ and alleging that Nobel committee members have been besmirching Peres’s name for a decade. A source close to Peres said that in fact Peres alone was initially going to be given the prize, and that Rabin and Arafat were added later.

(With Gil Hoffman)

© The Jerusalem Post