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Yassir Arafat
Arabic: yāsir ¢arafātPlay sound
Arabic: (ORIGINAL NAME:) muhammadu ¢abdi r-ra'ūfi l-qudwahi l-husaynī

Yassir Arafat.
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Yassir Arafat with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and US President Bill Clinton in 1993.
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Yassir Arafat with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and US President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Yassir Arafat in 1979.
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In 1979.

Yassir Arafat as youth.
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Yassir Arafat as youth.

(1929-2004) President of Palestine (1996-2004), through being president of the Palestinian Authority, controlling freed Palestinian territories in Gaza and on the West Bank.
Arafat's international profile has changed during the last 30 years. During the 1960's he was regarded as a leader and organizer of several terrorist attacks into Israel. In the 1970's the international society came to regard him as a politician without country, but still associated with the activities carried out in the 1960's.
In the 1980's, Arafat started to gain more important support in the West, largely because of increasingly ill-considered politics in Israel (attacks on Lebanon, massacres in Sabra and Chatila), but basically because of a change in his own politics (more talk, less action).
In the 1990's Arafat came to be considered a pragmatic moderate, and by many foreign observers a wiser politician than his Israeli opponents. Few questioned Arafat's intention of achieving peace, but there was more uncertainty about his desire to achieve peace with his Palestinian political opponents.
Through 2001, Arafat's position weakened as did his popularity. There are several reasons for this: Other more radical groups have been far more active as well as representative of public opinion. Israeli actions against the Palestinian infrastructure such as the police, have made it virtually impossible for Arafat to exercise much power, hence it created an image of him as weak and inactive among his own former supporters. There were also indications that Arafat himself is sympathizing with radical groups, and allowing them sufficient room for uprisings and their attacks on Israeli soil. This may have been the result from that fact that over the years he experienced little cooperation from Israeli leaders, and no progress in the peace process.
In 2002, Arafat became humiliated by Ariel Sharon who put him under house arrest in Ramallah from December 2001 to April 2002. This gave Arafat the status of a living martyr for the Palestinian cause, and the image of a leader who would not bend. It would be correct to say that although Sharon tried to destroy Arafat, and even publicly declared him "irrelevant", in reality he gave him back his strength and recreated him as undisputed leader of the Palestinians.
The rule over the small territories that have been given autonomy, Palestine, has not been a success. There has been many breaches on human rights, and economic growth is still beyond reach. Much of this has been ascribed to Arafat, who has been accused of being too weak with to prevent corruption and nepotism among the new leadership of Palestine.
During this same period, Israel has made it more difficult for Palestinians living in occupied territories to maintain their employment in Israel. This has resulted in diminished living conditions for most Palestinians.
Towards the end of his life, Arafat played an unclear role on Palestinian politics, as his room for action was limited, much of the acting power came into the hands of prime ministers from 2003, and his own health was weak.

1929 August 24 (?): Born in Cairo, Egypt. Place of birth is not certain; other sources state Jerusalem or Gaza. During his childhood Arafat lives in both Cairo and Jerusalem.
1947: In the wars with the Jews, Arafat fights on the side of the grand mufti of Jerusalem.
1948: Flees Palestine, after the establishment of Israel. He settles in Cairo, where he starts to study engineering at University of Cairo.
1952: He joins the Muslim Brotherhood and Union of Palestinian Students, in which he becomes president.
1956: Participates in the Suez campaign, in the Egyptian Army.
1956: Moves to Kuwait, where he works as an engineer, and establishes his own entrepreneurial company.
1957: Starts Al Fatah. Al Fatah conducts several attacks into Israel.
1967: Al Fatah is linked to PLO.
1968: Arafat is elected chairman of PLO. He starts working to bring PLO from an ideology of Pan-Arabism to Palestinian nationalism.
1974: Arafat delivers a speech to the UN General Assembly.
1982: PLO is forced to move from Lebanon, after Israel attacks the country. The new headquarters of PLO are located at Borj Cedria in the Golf of Tunis, Tunisia.
1988 November 15: The State of Palestine proclaimed at a meeting in Algiers, Algeria.
1989: Arafat is elected president of State of Palestine by the Central Council of the Palestine National Council.
1991: US-led talks begin in Madrid, but lead nowhere.
1993: The Oslo Agreement gives the peace process a giant leap forward. In essence, the Agreement provides "land for peace."
1993: Arafat recognizes Israel's right to existence.
1994 May: Israeli forces withdraw from, and hand over to the Palestinians, the town of Jericho.
December 10: Receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
July: Arafat returns to Palestine.
1996 January 20: Arafat is elected president of the Palestinian Authority in public elections, with 88% of the votes.
2000: During this year, Arafat turns down a peace proposal from the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, which would give Palestine control over more than 90% of the territory of the West Bank. Later in this year, Palestine enters a situation of civil unrest, in which Palestinians throw stones at soldiers who retaliate with bullets. Hundreds of Palestinians are killed.
December: Reports of new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
2001: The dialogue between Israel and Palestine disintegrates following numerous terrorist attacks from Palestinian groups on innocent Israeli civilians and, in one case the extremist tourist minister of Israel. Israel, on the other hand, retaliates on Palestinian terrorists, their leaders and innocent civilians.
— Arafat is stripped of much of his power by Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon. At Christmas, Arafat is placed under virtual house arrest, as a retaliation for his meager cooperation in hunting down known Palestinian terrorists.
2003 May 19: Arafat appoints Mahmoud Abbas Palestine's first prime minister.
September 7: Arafat asks Ahmed Qurei to become prime minister after the resignation of Mahmoud Abba. Qurei does not accept until a month later after he has received signals from Israel and USA that they support the peace process.
2004 October: Arafat becomes seriously ill, and goes to France for medical treatment.
November 4: Reports go out that Arafat has died, but this is denied by the hospital where he is receiving his medical treatment.
November 11: Arafat is declared dead, after he goes into a coma and is placed on life support.

By Tore Kjeilen