Norwegian statesman Kaare Kristiansen, who made his name as a friend of Israel since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, passed away on Sunday at the age of 85.
My first contact with Kaare Kristiansen was in Jerusalem in December, 1994, when I was literally en route to fly to Norway, to cover the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, where Arafat, Peres and Rabin were being honored.
I got beeped to hear Kristiansen in Jerusalem.
With my suitcase in hand, I encountered Kristiansen as he entered into Jerusalem’s Hilton Hotel, arm in arm with Yehudah Wachsman, whose son Nachshon had been kidnapped and then brutally murdered only six weeks before.
Kristiansen had called an impromptu press conference, to apologize to the people of Israel for the Nobel Peace Prize that Arafat was about to receive, and explained why he had resigned from the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 1994 – as a protest against the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize that year to Arafat.
Kristiansen spoke in an unambiguous tone saying that “Arafat is not a man of peace or integrity, and not someone who deserves a Nobel Peace Prize”, adding that “Arafat had yet to speak a word of peace and reconciliation to his own people in their own language”.
It was refreshing to hear a politician speaking in clear terms of integrity, a man who was ahead of his time in warning that Arafat was not a man of peace and a man who deserved no prizes of any kind.
Five years later was my second encounter with Kristiansen, this time in Oslo, when signatories to the Oslo process organized a fifth anniversary celebration of the Oslo process at the same hotel in the Norwegian capital where the Oslo accords were signed. Our agency brought the videos of Arafat’s speeches for the Norwegian media to witness, where Arafat called for Israel’s destruction, while the Oslo negotiations were indeed taking place.
I called Kristiansen to ask him if he would be kind enough to present these videos to the Norwegian media, and to translate Arafat’s words into Norwegian for the local press. Kristiansen did exactly that, and met with the leading lights of the Norwegian media for more than three hours, and translated Arafat’s incitement which had never before been shared with the local Norwegian press.
And Kristiansen did this with Arafat sitting less than 30 feet away in an adjacent meeting room.
Even more interesting was the scoop that Kristiansen gave to the Norwegian press, which was that the “declaration of principles” which formed the basis of the Oslo accords which had been hammered out in Olso at that hotel spot throughout the summer of 1993 was never even ratified by the PLO.
The third encounter that I had with Kristiansen occurred after our news agency had discovered from the publicly available records of the Peres Center for Peace that the Peres Center had provided Norwegian politician Terye Larsen and his wife with a $100,000 prize, just before Larsen became appointed as the chief UN peace negotiator.
Kristiansen read about this gratuity and stated to a Norwegian TV station that Peres had promised remuneration to Larsen in order to ensure that he would share the Nobel Peace Prize with the late Prime Minister Rabin. Indeed, Larsen became the international chairman of the Peres Center for Peace, a position which he held until assuming responsibilities at the UN.
I called Kristiansen and he was quite explicit in affirming that he witnessed the deal that was made between Peres and Larsen to assure Larsen that he would be “well rewarded for his efforts”.
Last year, following Arafat’s death, Kristiansen warned against great hopes for Abbas, Arafat’s successor, saying that ” the current optimistic view on the part of the majority in the Knesset regarding “new” positive attitudes among the Palestinians is a deja vu repetition of the most complete failure of the Middle East conflict, the so-called “Oslo Agreement”.
On August 18th of this year, Kristiansen was invited to a dinner party sponsored jointly with Israeli government which took place at the end of the week when Israel forcibly expelled 10,,000 Jews from their homes in Katif and Northen Samaria.
Kristiansen declined the invitation, saying that ” The Israel Government expulsion of Gush Katif Jews is not an internal Israeli affair. It is everyone’s affair. This expulsion is an immoral and illegal act violating international ethical, human, legal and social rights. This reality was affirmed by Israel Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy in his dissenting opinion opposing the Gush Katif expulsion and by University of Sydney Professor of International Law Julius Stone of blessed memory”.
In his letter to the Israeli ambassador in Oslo, Kristiansen wrote that “Being neither an Israeli citizen nor a Jew, I have been reluctant to express my opinions publicly in a situation where the expression of such opinions might be interpreted as foreign meddling in internal Israeli affairs. My excuse is love for Israel. Over a decade ago, I protested as immoral the Nobel Prize Committee awarding a “peace” prize to Yasser Arafat in December, 1994, and resigned from the Nobel Prize Committee as an expression of that protest then. Over a decade later, I protest as immoral the illegal Israel Government expulsion of the Gush Katif Jews today”.
[These quotations from Krtistiansen are taken from a formal statement released by the Root and Branch Association on August 18th, 2005]
The question remains as to whether the government of Israel will express its appreciation to Kaare Kristiansen for the warnings that he gave Israel concerning the nature of Yassir Arafat.
This week would be therefore be an appropriate time to do so.
———- Kaare Kristiansen political bio
With thanks to: Erez Uriely, director Norwegian Israel Center Against anti-Semitism (NIS)
Kristiansen was the leader of the Christian People’s Party during the periods of 1975-1977 and 1979 1983. He was elected Member of Parliament from 1973 to 1977, and from 1981 to 1989. He served as Minister of Oil and Energy from 1983 to 1986.
Kristiansen was politically involved during his whole life. He was elected the first time as a member of the municipality in 1951, and ended his last term in 1999.
In 1989 he resigned as a Member of Parliament on the grounds that his own party had distanced itself from its original purpose and course.