Home About Palestine Country Profile Biography of late President Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar) (1929-2004)

Biography of late President Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar) (1929-2004)


Born in Cairo on 24 Aug. 1929; full name is Mohamad Abdul Rahman Abdul Ra’uf Arafat Al-Qudwa Al-Husseini; grew up mainly in Cairo and, for a brief period, in Jerusalem; fought in 1948 alongside the Mufti's defense forces of Palestine; graduated from Cairo University, Faculty of Engineering, in 1956;

* founder and president (1952-57) of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) in Cairo/Egypt;

* founder and chairman of the Union of Palestinian Graduates in 1956;

* volunteered in the Egyptian army during the Suez Canal crisis; left to Kuwait in late 1956;

* co-founder (with Abu Jihad) of the first Fateh-cell in 1957;

* Founder of Fateh party (January 1959), until today PLO's largest faction; Fateh leader since 1958 and its spokesperson since 1968;

* Member of the first Palestinian delegation to China to confer with Premier Chou-En-Lai in March 1964; elected chairman of the PLO Exec. Committee since Feb. 1969 when Fateh took over the PLO; changed the directions of the PLO from being pan-Arabist to focusing on the Palestinian national cause;

* Appointed Commander-in-Chief of the all-Palestinian/Arab guerilla forces in Sept. 1970; agreed to ‘liberate Palestine by stages’ at the PNC conference of 1974;

* Addressed the UN General Assembly in New York for the first time on 13 Nov. 1974, saying he bore an olive branch (for peace) in one hand, and a gun (for war) in the other; rejected Egyptian President Sadat’s peace talks with Israel from 1977-1978, after it became clear that its version of Palestinian autonomy fell far short of statehood, and gave no role to the PLO;

* In March 1986, offered to accept UN Res. 242 and 338, and thus Israel, if the permanent UNSC members guarantee the Palestinians’ right to self-determination;

* On 15 Nov. 1988, recognized Israel, renounced terrorism and proclaimed the independent Palestinian State; and elected by the PLO Central Council as the first President of the State of Palestine on 2 April 1989; offered his ‘good offices’ to negotiate an Arab solution to the 1990-1991 Gulf Crisis, after Saddam Hussein’s ‘call to arms’ on behalf of Palestine;

* Announced his marriage to Suha Tawil in Feb. 1992;

* Survived an air crash over the Libyan Sahara in April 1992; supervised secret negotiations with Israel from 1992 which led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles between PLO and Israel on 13 Sept. 1993; since then negotiating with Israel on Palestinian self-rule; returned to Palestine on 1 July 1994;

* Set up the PA and appointed as President and Minister of Interior;

* Awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace together with Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin and FM Shimon Peres in 1994; elected President in the Jan. 1996 elections (with 87.3% of the vote);

* Appointed a committee to draw up a Palestinian constitution;

* Met Pres. Clinton during his first official visit to the US in May 1996; announced a new 25-member cabinet on 9 May;

* Faced with resignations from the PLC and his cabinet in 1997-1998 (e.g., Hanan Ashrawi and Haidar Abdul Shafi) over his failure to implement reforms and combat corruption;

* Received the “Golden Pegasus” prize in Florence in June 1998;

* Signed the Wye River Plantation Agreement with Israel in October 1998, calling for further Israeli withdrawals and a Palestinian crackdown on militants;

* In 1999, threatened to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state in the WBGS with East Jerusalem as its capital, at the end of the Interim Period following Israel’s failure to meet its commitments, but is persuaded against this; signed the Sharm Esh-Sheikh Agreement in Sept. 1999, which calls for a 7%-transfer of ‘Area C’ to ‘Area B’; headed the negotiations in Camp David with Pres. Clinton and PM Barak in July 2000, taking a firm stand, and was held responsible when no agreement was reached; increasingly marginalized by the Israeli government following the election of right-wing PM Ariel Sharon in Feburary 2001, who refused to meet or deal with him;

* Banned from traveling and confined to his compound (the ‘Muqata’a) in Ramallah by the Israeli army for much of the Al-Aqsa Intifada;

* Accepted under international pressure to appoint a PM in Feb. 2003, and swore in Mahmoud Abbas as first ever PM in April 2003; after Abbas resignation, announced an PA Emergency Govt. in early Oct. 2003;

* Swore in the subsequent govt. of the new PM Ahmed Qrei’a govt. on 12 Nov. 2003; turned seriously ill in Oct. 2004 and was flown from Ramallah to Paris via Amman to receive further medical treatment on the suspicion of suffering from a potentially fatal blood disorder, marking the first time he went abroad since 2001;

* Underwent medical checks and treatment at the Percy Military Teaching Hospital in Clamart, outside Paris, from 29 October 2004 but failed to recover and was pronounced dead on 11 November 2004, ending days of rumors over his condition. Will be dearly remembered by his people for forcing their plight into the world spotlight, devoting his life to the quest for Palestinian statehood, and unified them in their struggle for national freedom and independence.