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Profile of Arafat: A Man Who Likes Mickey Mouse

<i> From Associated Press</i>

He likes Mickey Mouse and westerns and a good laugh. He cooks a mean rice pilaf. He calls himself a feminist--and even darns socks.

This is no personals ad, this is PLO chief Yasser Arafat, once the very symbol of terror in Israel, in a profile published Friday in Israel’s largest-circulation daily, Yediot Aharonot.

The profile appeared within hours of the historic mutual recognition of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Yediot gossip columnist Mira Avrech went to Tunis, Tunisia, the site of PLO headquarters, to capture the domestic Arafat now that there are prospects of Israel and Arafat being neighbors.

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She asked him if he regretted any part of the bloody struggle.

“Nothing,” Arafat replied.

But the columnist marveled at the sense of humor and the “incessant lovesickness for his wife” of the man who remained a short time ago the “unmitigated symbol of terror, bombs and murders.”

“A real love story,” is how Suha Arafat, 29, regarded her four-year marriage to Arafat, 64.

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“When you marry a man who’s been a bachelor until age 60, there are habits you can’t change,” Suha Arafat told Avrech. “He even darns his own socks and sews on buttons. He sews better than I do.”

Other domestic insights: Arafat cooks rice better than his wife does; he keeps the television tuned into CNN (except when he breaks for Mickey Mouse or a western); conjugal times are saved for the afternoon siesta, because Arafat usually works until 5 a.m.

Suha Arafat, a West Bank-born Christian, does miss her former life as Suha Tawil, a student in Paris who liked to party until the small hours. She keeps her bathroom filled with French perfumes as a reminder of more anonymous days, Avrech reported.

Avrech asked the PLO chief, “Now that you’ve moved from the armed struggle to the political struggle, will you wear civilian clothing?”

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“Give me a state,” he said, “and I’ll wear a tux and a bow tie.”


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