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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Peace Prize for Arafat Divides Nobel Team

OSLO -- The Nobel Peace Prize committee, racked by its worst dispute in two decades, has decided to give this year's award to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat, a newspaper reported Tuesday.


The Oslo newspaper Aftenposten said one committee member, Kare Kristiansen, who regards Arafat as a terrorist, was so angered by the decision that he planned to resign in protest when the prize is announced in Oslo on Friday.


The report appeared to break a tradition of deep secrecy prior to the formal announcement of the most coveted of the Nobel Prizes. Each award this year is worth 7 million Swedish krona ($933,000).


Arafat and Rabin gave a historic impetus to Middle East peace with a handshake on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993. It ended the taboo on formal recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.


The sides then signed a declaration of principles on limited Palestinian self-rule as a first step toward an overall peace settlement between the two sides.


Aftenposten, quoting unidentified sources, said the five-member Nobel committee struggled with its decision at a meeting last Friday over who should be honored for achieving last year's historic Middle East peace breakthrough during secret talks in Norway.


Kristiansen, reached at his home, refused to confirm or deny the selection or his threat to resign. He cited what he called respect for the committee's policy of secrecy.


"I don't have any comment until after the chairman has made the announcement," Kristiansen said. "If we started to confirm or deny reports, it would lead to (secrecy) falling apart."


Earlier Tuesday, however, when Israeli radio told him in an interview that some Israelis would appreciate his stand, Kristiansen answered, "Thank you very much."


In the past, Kristiansen has criticized both Arafat and Rabin. He also has been one of the most outspoken members of the committee on other winners.


Aftenposten said Kristiansen, a longtime supporter of Israel, had opposed Arafat throughout the selection process.


A former government minister and member of parliament from the Christian Democratic party, Kristiansen started off his six-year term on the committee in 1991 with unusual candor for a member of the tight-lipped body, which traditionally refused comment on past winners.


At the time, he said the 1990 award to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev a few months before he ordered a violent crackdown in the Baltic republics was an example of how dangerous it could be to honor an active politician.


Aftenposten said the committee can change its mind until the last minute, but that this was unlikely since most members want Arafat to share the prize.