- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

OSLO The committee that awards the century-old Nobel Peace Prize, spurred by violence in the Middle East, has broken with a tradition of never second-guessing itself in public.
Some of its five members are saying the 1994 prize shouldn't have gone to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
To the anger of Israel's supporters, the dissenters didn't extend their criticism to Mr. Peres' co-laureate, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Arafat shared the prize with Mr. Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for the peace efforts, now collapsed, that included the 1993 Oslo Agreement negotiated in the Norwegian capital. Mr. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an ultranationalist Israeli who opposed his peace moves.
The 1994 prize, worth a shared $933,000, was controversial from the outset, with committee member Kaare Kristiansen quitting rather than condone a prize to Mr. Arafat, a man he branded a "terrorist."
With Israelis and Palestinians again killing each other, emotions are back on the boil.
The trigger was committee member Hanna Kvanmo, a retired left-wing politician who broke with the tradition of silence in early April.
Replying to a newspaper's questions, she said she wished Mr. Peres' prize could be revoked, because as a member of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition government, he was party to the Israeli military incursion.
"If it had been now, he would not have gotten the prize," Miss Kvanmo said.
Another member, Lutheran Bishop Gunnar Staalsett, said Mr. Peres was violating the "intention and spirit" of the prize.
Committee Chairman Gunnar Berge criticized the Israeli government, but added that "I am completely sure the situation would have been different if Shimon Peres had been Israel's prime minister."
Another committee member, Sissel Roenbeck, held the Israeli government largely responsible for the conflict and urged Mr. Peres to return to a policy of peace and dialogue.
And Mr. Arafat? Miss Kvanmo didn't think he had forfeited his prize because, she said, he had tried to carry out the Oslo accords and couldn't be blamed for the violence since Israel had him under virtual arrest.
Israel maintains Mr. Arafat has orchestrated the violence that began long before it besieged his West Bank headquarters, and its supporters were quick to protest the committee members' remarks.
"We have had 200 to 300 contacts a week, which is extraordinary," said Olav Njoelstad, acting director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which assists the committee. He said most defended Mr. Peres and wanted Mr. Arafat's prize revoked.
The California-based Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote to Norway's prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, calling Mr. Arafat "the godfather of terrorism."
"We heard nothing from Norway or the Nobel Committee when Israeli civilians were butchered," it said.
Norway's prime minister, who is considered generally pro-Israel, said the committee was facing an unusual situation: Two former enemies who were honored for making peace were at war again. "It is a very strange situation," he said.
Nobel statutes say that once the prize is awarded, it cannot be withdrawn or returned, and even the rare winners who decline it, such as Vietnam's Le Duc Tho, remain listed on the laureates' roll.

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