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The Night Yasser Arafat Kissed Me

Author: Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy
March 9, 2010
American Interest


The stars were sparking over Gaza on the unforgettable night when Yasser Arafat kissed me - gently, tenderly, sincerely.  I've rarely felt more relaxed or more comfortable with a world leader; he was kneading my shoulders and massaging my back at the time.  As the tension of a hard day drained out of me, I looked wonderingly at our reflections in the window as he closed his sensitive and expressive eyes and bent down to kiss me on the crown of my head.

It had been a hard day; a long business lunch at a fish restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean, a quick dip in the water, and one meeting after another.  In the afternoon I spent some time with Madame Arafat; she converted to Islam before marrying the leader of the Palestinian national movement, but had a beautiful, autographed biography of John Paul II on her coffee table.  She was very excited; to help with the Palestinian struggle she had planned a benefit in Paris to help Palestinian hospitals and we passed an agreeable hour as she told me of her plans.

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