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yasser arafat
palestinian leader

Yasser Arafat is the controversial president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), a position he has held ever since the first PA elections were held in January 1996, as required by the Oslo accord. Arafat and Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in producing the historic Oslo accord of 1993, a turning point in Arab-Israeli relations.

Arafat has been a longtime adversary of Israel. In the 1950s, he and associates formed Al Fatah, which was dedicated to reclaiming Palestine. It became the chief organization in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), founded in 1964 by the Arab League to bring together groups with similar aims. Arafat became a full-time revolutionary, organizing raids and attacks on Israel and calling for armed struggle. In 1988, however, Arafat appeared before the U.N. and renounced terrorism, saying that it was "the right of all parties in the Middle East conflict to live in peace and security, including the state of Palestine, Israel, and other neighbors." Soon after, the peace process began and was given momentum by the signing of the Oslo accord in September 1993.

ehud barak
former israeli prime minister

A former army chief of staff and one of Israel's most decorated officers, the Labor Party's Ehud Barak became Israel's prime minister in 1999 after soundly defeating incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu. At the failed Camp David summit in July 2000, Barak came closer than any of his predecessors to making the tough compromises on sensitive "final status" issues. But his governing coalition collapsed with the Al Aqsa uprising of September 2000 and he announced his resignation in December 2000, just a year and a half after assuming office. Two months later, he was defeated by Likud Party leader and hard-liner Ariel Sharon. In this interview, Barak discusses his relationship with Arafat, the myths about the Camp David summit, and his own efforts to make peace with Palestinians and find a two-state solution.

saeb erekat
chief palestinian negotiator

A former academic and journalist, Saeb Erekat is the Palestinian Authority's minister of local government and one of its senior negotiators and spokesmen. Several interviews were conducted with him over time. The last ones occurred between September 2000 and late January 2001--a period when the Al Aqsa intifida erupted, violence kept escalating, and Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were in a desperate race against time to reach a "final status" peace agreement before Clinton and Barak left office. In the interviews, Erekat talks about some of the hopeful moments that occurred in the peace negotiations, why Camp David ended in impasse, and his thoughts on the future of a peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

benjamin netanyahu
former israeli prime minister

In 1996, following an outbreak of Palestinian suicide bombings, the Likud Party's Benjamin Netanyahu defeated by a very slim margin the incumbent and longtime Labor Party leader, Shimon Peres. A vowed opponent of the Oslo peace process, Netanyahu promised to crack down on terrorism. His tenure as prime minister was a volatile one. He negotiated an agreement with Arafat at the Wye summit, agreeing to pull the Israel Defense Force (IDF) out of more of the West Bank, inflamed Palestinians by continuing to build Jewish settlements, and sparked a violent Palestinian protest after he opened a tunnel along the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. In 1999, Netanyahu was defeated in a landslide by Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who favored restarting the peace process.

Since the outbreak of the Al Aqsa intifada in September 2000, Netanyahu has continually called for Yasser Arafat's removal from power and enjoys growing popular support from Israelis unhappy with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's handling of the conflict.

In this interview, Netanyahu discusses his first meeting with Yasser Arafat, why he opened the tunnel along the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, the tense negotiations at Wye River, and why he thinks Oslo's logic is fundamentally flawed.

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