The Nobel Prize Committee in Oslo has selected Barack Obama, rookie president of the United States, as its Peace Prize winner for 2009.
The committee said Obama was awarded the prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples." Obama will receive a gold medal, a diploma and 10m Swedish kronor ($1.4 million).
The five-member committee had to consider a record 205 nominations for this year's prize, and held more meetings than usual. Among the nominees were French President Nicolas Sarkozy; Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who has helped thousands of female victims of sexual violence; Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba, who has worked to bring an end to the civil war in her country; Afghan doctor and human rights activist Sima Samar; and Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad Bin Talal of Jordan, an advocate of inter-religious dialogue.
Likud MK: Netanyahu Will Have to be Strong
Knesset Member Danny Danon of the Likud said in response to the news, "Obama set himself a goal without even understanding the situation, and for that, he received the prize. [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu will have to be very strong against the pressure that will now intensify as Obama will have to prove that he is worthy of the prize."
Obama’s much-touted speech four months ago in Cairo earned him many points around the world for his peace-making efforts. “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," he said at the time, "one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
Though emphasizing he would continue to fight “Muslim extremists,” Obama underlined his desire to remove American troops from Afghanistan, as well as his plan to gradually remove forces from Iraq. He also reiterated his strong demands upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach an agreement, based on “two states where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.”
Despite Obama’s strong words and receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize for them, no progress has been made between Israel and the PA.
Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. In 1994, the prestigious prize was awarded to PLO founder Yasser Arafat, considered the father of modern-day terrorism, together with Israel's Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
The other sitting U.S. presidents to be awarded the prize were Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter won in 2002.