Born: 24 August 1929, Cairo, Egypt
Died: 11 November 2004
Residence at the time of the award: Palestine
Prize motivation: "for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East"
Role: President of the Palestinian National Authority, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO
Prize share: 1/3
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.