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On Eve of Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, Committee’s Lone Dissenter Speaks out

When the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat in Oslo this weekend, Kaare Kristiansen will not be at the ceremony.

Kristiansen, the Nobel Prize committee member who resigned in protest in October after Arafat was named one of the peace prize recipients, instead flew to Jerusalem this week to show support for Israel.

A former president of the Norwegian Parliament and a longtime supporter of Israel, Kristiansen said he could not attend the awards ceremony, slated for Saturday night, in good conscience. Instead, he jumped at an invitation from the World Zionist Organization to attend a Christian Friendship Conference taking place in the capital in the capital this week.

Interviewed at a kibbutz guest house on Monday, Kristiansen, a spry 74, said he had no regrets about resigning, despite the storm of controversy generated by his anti-Arafat position.

Explaining why he took the stand, he said, “I found it impossible, both with respect to my own convictions and, more important, with respect to the peace prize and its founder, to accept Arafat as qualified for this most prestigious prize in the world.”

Citing Arafat’s involvement in terrorism over the years, Kristiansen maintained that the PLO leader should never have been considered for the prize in the first place.

“Arafat has been one of the most renowned terrorists in the world,” Kristiansen said. “He has, so to speak, built the bridges for many other terrorists in other countries. He has killed a lot of innocent people.”

Kristiansen said he decided to resign, rather than hold his tongue, because he was afraid others would view his silence as a vote for Arafat.

He said that because the committee’s statutes require “an absolute consensus” among its five members, he had to resign in order to voice his dissent.

Since resigning from the committee, Kristiansen said he has received “mixed reaction.”

The international media has meted out some “very harsh criticism,” while ordinary citizens have been extremely supportive, he said.

He said he has received hundreds, even thousands, of supportive telephone calls, faxes, letters and flowers.

Kristiansen pondered only briefly when asked whether awarding the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize to former Prime Minister Menachem Begin was equally controversial, given Begin’s role in the Jewish underground in the 1940s.

“It is very unjust to any of the other peace laureates to draw a parallel between them and Arafat,” Kristiansen replied. Begin shared the esteemed award with the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in recognition of their peace accord.

“What Begin, and also (former Prime Minister Yitzhak) Shamir, did was very hard warfare, but it was directed against other military units – the British,” he said. “As far as I know, they always tried to (ensure) that their actions should not harm innocent people.”

Kristiansen said that awarding the prize to Arafat places him in the same category as people such as Gen. George Marshall, Mother Theresa and Elie Wiesel.

“To me,” he said, “it seems quite impossible to do that.”

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