OSLO, OCT. 14 -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and two Israelis -- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres -- today were named recipients of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. But within hours, violence and death on the Israeli-occupied West Bank demonstrated the elusiveness of the peace that the award-winners crafted.
Today's announcement led one of the Nobel Prize Committee members to resign in protest. Kare Kristiansen said his colleagues had chosen the wrong man in Arafat -- whom he described as "too tainted by violence, terror and torture" -- and the wrong time to honor the "uncertain" peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
By tonight, the award was overshadowed -- even mocked -- by events in the West Bank, where an attempt by Israeli armed forces to rescue a kidnapped soldier from his militant Palestinian captors ended in the deaths of the captive, three of his kidnappers and one of his would-be rescuers.
Thus, a proud day for Norway ended painfully.
The Peace Prize was especially meaningful to Norway this year, because Norwegian diplomats, official and unofficial, had secretly brokered the accords that led to the history-making handshake between Arafat and Rabin on the White House lawn Sept. 13, 1993, and the signing of the agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization to grant Palestinians limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.
Norway's ties to this year's award, and the events surrounding the announcement of it, made today altogether unusual for the secretive, staid and consensus-oriented five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Kristiansen and Nobel committee chairman Francis Sejersted, in separate news conferences, conducted an impromptu debate on Arafat and the philosophy of the world's most coveted civic award. The chairman said, "We honor the cause" of peace, not personalities. "It is not our job to evaluate a life's record. The committee does not want to be the supreme moral judges" of the world.
But Kristiansen, 70, a former conservative cabinet minister and a longtime vocal supporter of Israel, said: "Even if you forgive Arafat, that is not a reason to give him the prize. Not all sinners who confess are given the prize. His past is too filled with violence, terrorism and bloodshed, and his future too uncertain to make him a Nobel Peace Prize winner... . It will give the wrong signal to other violent organizations in the Middle East and other parts of the world."
This year's prize, the formal statement stressed, "is intended by the Norwegian Nobel Committee to honor a political act," one that "called for great courage on both sides... . By concluding the Oslo accords ... Arafat, Peres and Rabin have made substantial contributions to a historic process through which peace and cooperation can replace war and hate."
It was, as well, the first time the prize has been divided among more than two named individuals, only the third occasion in the prize's 93-year history that a committee member has broken ranks publicly and quit and the only time anyone here could recall that a newspaper reported both the dissent and the decision, albeit without mention of Peres, in advance of a public announcement.
The surprise of today's announcement was the inclusion of Peres in the award, which will be presented formally in December along with the monetary award of about a half-million dollars. He and Rabin, although from the same political party, have entertained Middle East watchers for years with their political and personal rivalry. While the cooperation of both was essential to the realization of the peace agreement, Peres, on the Israeli side, powered the secret talks in Norway now symbolized by the handshake in Washington. Friends of Peres reportedly worked hard to have him included.
Before today's announcement, the assumption in Israel was that Rabin or Peres might win the prize, but not both. The old rivals, through memoirs and aides-de-camp, waged quiet campaigns to claim paternity for the breakthrough to peace with the PLO.
In Peres' memoir last year, "The New Middle East," he took the largest share of credit for himself. "I knew that the negotiations were serious, and I immediately put the prime minister in the picture," he wrote. Last month, on the anniversary of the Sept. 13 Declaration of Principles, Peres managed to spend the day in Oslo, where he met with Norwegian legislators.
Rabin, for his part, sponsored a rival account in a book that portrayed him as seeking an opening to the Palestinians from the beginning of his premiership. In Washington in August, addressing a joint session of Congress with Jordan's King Hussein, Rabin thanked Secretary of State Warren Christopher for his role in the peace process but ignored that of his own foreign minister, Peres.
David Makovsky, a Jerusalem Post reporter who recently finished a book on the peace negotiations, said Rabin and Peres, despite years of mutual animus, "really complemented each other," with Peres the "policy entrepreneur" and Rabin using his military credentials as war hero and former army chief of staff to convince Israelis that the deal "was a risk worth taking."
The Norwegian role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began almost by chance. Marianne Heiberg, a social anthropologist at the Norwegian Institute for Applied Social Science Research, had done a study for the Foreign Ministry -- her husband, the late Johan Jorgen Holst, was then Norway's foreign minister -- on the impact of foreign aid on living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. The study led the institute's director, Terje Rod Larsen, to suggest in April 1992 to Israeli Labor Party official Yossi Belin that Norway might be able to play a mediating role.
During 11 rounds of talks between January and August 1993, the Norwegians worked to foster a sense of community among the Israeli and Palestinian participants, forcing them to dine together and find company in long country walks. Periodically, Holst said afterward, the negotiators would fight, swear, declare they could not tolerate such nonsense and stalk out of the room, only to return later.
According to close observers of the Nobel process here, the Oslo accords were the primary focus of the committee from the outset, although about 130 nominations had been submitted. The question was, who should get the prize? Some suggested including the Norwegian peace brokers, but the death of Holst, the low profile of Larsen and what one source called "the Norwegian national modesty" stopped that idea.
Kristiansen said he stated at the beginning that Arafat was "a barrier" he could not surmount and that he would have to resign were the PLO chief to be honored. Declining to elaborate, he said he offered alternatives that did not include any Palestinians. He also said he "advocated waiting one year to see what the result" of the accords would be.
Once his ideas were rejected, observers here speculated today, the committee was left with Peres and Arafat, the highest-profile figures actually involved in the negotiations. But since Arafat was the ranking figure on his side, according to the speculation here, Rabin, the prime minister, could not be excluded. The tripartite award was decided at the committee's last meeting, Oct. 7.
The rules of the Nobel committee do not permit "minority reports" or public dissents. Kristiansen said this forced him, "with regret," to resign and hold his news conference. Both Kristiansen and others said he was the only dissenter to the award in the committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian parliament.
Today's was the second Nobel Peace Prize awarded to peacemakers in the Middle East, the first being the 1978 joint award to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Last year, the prize was divided between South African President Nelson Mandela, then leader of the African National Congress, and Frederik W. de Klerk, then president of South Africa.
Correspondent Barton Gellman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.