Clinton Says Arafat Missed the Chance for Peace
By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Thursday offered condolences to Palestinians after the death of Yasser Arafat but said their leader had missed the opportunity to create lasting Middle East peace in 2000.
Clinton, who helped broker a Middle East peace plan with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, will not attend either his memorial service or his funeral, the former president's office said.
Clinton, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Rabin made history on Sept. 13, 1993, when the three men shook hands on the White House lawn and signed interim peace accords that led to seven years of negotiation and relative peace.
But he said in a statement, "I regret that in 2000 he missed the opportunity to bring that nation into being and pray for the day when the dreams of the Palestinian people for a state and a better life will be realized in a just and lasting peace."
Attempts to steer Arafat and the Israelis to a Middle East peace agreement dominated much of Clinton's last year in office in 2000 but the talks finally broke down, with the White House putting much of the blame on Arafat.
"However others viewed him, the Palestinians saw him as the father of their nation," said Clinton, who underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery two months ago.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called Arafat "the father of the modern Palestinian nationalist movement" and "a powerful human symbol and forceful advocate."
"While he provided indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement and was instrumental in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from the negotiating role in more recent years," Carter said in a statement issued by his office.
"My hope is that an emerging Palestinian leadership can benefit from Arafat's experiences, be welcomed to the peace process by Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon and President Bush, and be successful in helping to forge a Palestinian state living in harmony with their Israeli neighbors," he said.
Thank you Bill
These people who defend Arafat and his blatant disrespect for the peace process need to seriously look at the facts. Barak was willing to give up so much for him, and he just turned his back on both Israel and the U.S.
Now Sharon is in office, and neither side is likely to make progress towards peace, but they definitely had something going in 2000, and Arafat made it fall apart.