Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and chair of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), told a packed ARCO Forum he will continue to work toward peace in the Middle East despite opposition from Palestinian and Israeli extremists.
Approximately 800 students, faculty and dignitaries flooded the Forum at the Institute of Politics (IOP), as president Neil I., Rudenstine introduced Arafat for his first address at an American university.
"I refuse to read what they have prepared for me," Arafat said, as he stood at the podium and set aside the 10-page speech prepared for him. "I want to speak from my heart to your heart."
Arafat arrived at 6:30 p.m. for the speech scheduled at 6 p.m., late as he has been for many of his appearances during this visit to the U.S.
In a 20-minute address, Arafat emphasized the importance and complexity of the Middle East peace efforts.
"Peace is not only something to sign in the White House. It is something more difficult. It needs all of our efforts together, and it needs your help," Arafat said, referring to the peace contract he signed with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the White House last year. Rabin will be speaking at the IOP on Nov. 15.
Arafat said peace in the Middle East will come from permanent and long lasting solutions to the crises facing Israelis and Palestinians.
"We have no other choice but to continue in the peace process," Arafat said.
"Before the Jews were our cousins," he added, alluding to the Biblical origins of both religions. "Now they are not only our cousins, they are our neighbors as well."
Arafat said he faces many obstacles in peacefully establishing Palestinian rule, citing the activities of various "fanatical groups."
"Everyone has to respect the law and what had been signed by me because I had signed is not representing me but the whole Palestinians," Arafat said.
The Palestinian leader emphasized the importance of moving forward toward lasting peace rather than becoming bogged down in internal politics.
"This is the only way for our next generation to live peacefully and freely in the land of peace," Arafat said. "What is important is to push forward the peace process very quickly."
Without reference to the specifics of the Palestinian state, Arafat emphasized the importance of the peace process.
"We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of this peace," he added.