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Backgrounder the New Palestinian Prime Minster, Ahmed Karia, Was an Oslo Negotiator

Ahmed Karia, who was named the new Palestinian Authority prime minister this week, has long had ties both to P.A. President Yasser Arafat and to some Israeli officials.

Karia, 65, was one of the architects of the Oslo accords and led the Palestinians in negotiations for several years during the 1990s.

Even since then, when secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians took place, Karia — known for his charm and humor — was often one of the Palestinian representatives.

Karia is a moderate who has long been considered the No. 3 man in Arafat’s Fatah movement, behind Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, whom Karia replaced as prime minister two days after Abbas’ resignation on Saturday.

Karia has served as Palestinian minister of economy and trade, then minister for industry and, most recently, the speaker of the Palestinian legislative council.

During that time, he built a positive rapport with some dovish Israeli leaders.

Karia, also known as Abu Ala, was born in 1937 to a wealthy family in Abu Dis, a village near Jerusalem. He joined Fatah in 1968 and quickly moved up the ladder, eventually becoming director-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s economic department.

After the PLO was forced out of Lebanon in 1982, Karia went to Tunisia with Arafat and other officials.

A banker by profession, he helped draft a Palestinian economic development plan that was presented to a World Bank conference in 1993, according to the BBC.

During peace talks in 1995, he suffered a heart attack and traveled to the hospital with then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres by his side, according to the Jerusalem Post.

In 2002, Peres and then-Knesset speaker Avraham Burg phoned Karia after Israeli soldiers shot at his car at a West Bank checkpoint.

Also in 2002, Karia told Palestinian TV that Palestinian mistakes were among the reasons that many Israelis no longer supported peace and the reason why the right had come to power in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The peace movement “has begun to dwindle in Israel apparently due to some of the methods that we use,” he was quoted as saying. “We are not talking about legitimate resistance here. But I do say that some of the actions that harm us need to stop.”

At the same time, Karia also has been critical of Israeli policy — including the Camp David offer in 2000 by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Karia said that the offer — which would have given Palestinians control over 91 percent of the West Bank — would have resulted in Israeli-controlled cantons in the West Bank.

At least twice during the Palestinian intifada, Karia has made remarks seen as legitimizing Palestinian violence.

“Resistance of this Israeli policy, using all means, has now become legitimate as well as a national and religious duty,” he said in August 2001.

Before accepting the post on Monday, Karia offered additional criticism of Israel.

He told reporters “it would be pointless to form a new government if Israel doesn’t change its policy toward the Palestinians.” He also said he wants both the United States and Europe to guarantee Israeli compliance with the U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan, including “a halt to military strikes and a change of policy toward Arafat.”

Both Israel and the United States have been trying to sideline Arafat, who has been isolated in his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah for more than a year.

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