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Jailed Palestinian a Man of Peace, Leftist Israelis Say

August 2, 1988

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Faisal Husseini, a top pro-PLO activist jailed by Israel, has emerged as a local leader respected by dovish Israelis for his willingness to negotiate directly with the Jewish state.

″Husseini has a keen sense of realism, and in this case, realism means compromise,″ said Moshe Amirav, who was kicked out of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s right-wing Likud bloc after holding secret talks with Husseini last year.

The soft-spoken, 48-year-old Husseini was arrested Sunday and ordered held without trial for six months. He has already served 12 months in prison under two similar sentences.

One period of arrest began in September 1987, shortly after Husseini’s talks with Amirav were revealed. The latest arrest came just days after he told an Israeli audience in a rare public dialogue that he endorsed direct talks with Israeli leaders, including hardliner Shamir.

It was seen as an effort by Israel to prevent the expansion of Palestine Liberation Organization activities following the decision by King Hussein of Jordan to sever his nation’s legal and administrative ties with the occupied West Bank.

U.S. officials and Israeli liberals condemned Husseini’s arrest, saying Israel should encourage Palestinians who seek accommodation with Israel.

″If I were prime minister, I wouldn’t have put him in jail. I would have said to him, ’Let’s sit down and talk business,‴ said Amirav.

In The Hague, the Dutch government Tuesday pressed for Husseini’s early release, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, speaking anonymously in line with ministry practice.

He said roving Ambassador Henk Vijverberg told Israeli Ambassador Zev Sufott during a routine meeting that the Netherlands was ″concerned″ about the detention and that it ″jeopardized possible dialogue″ between the Israeli government and moderate Palestinians.

The spokesman noted that Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek met with Husseini and other Palestinian representatives during an official visit to Israel last month.

The Israeli newspaper Davar described Husseini as an important potential negotiating partner and said he would be a contender for the job of prime minister in a future Palestinian state.

″If the partner for dialogue is not going to be a Hashemite ruler like Hussein, it will be a Palestinian personality like Husseini,″ said Davar, which is close to the left-of-center Labor Party.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin has described Husseini as the top PLO official in the occupied territories and has accused him of agitating against Israel.

Husseini is a scion of one of the largest and most powerful Palestinian clans.

His great uncle was Haj Amin el Husseini, the fiercely anti-Jewish mufti of Jerusalem who served as president of the Supreme Moslem Council in Palestine from 1920 to 1944.

Faisal Husseini’s father, Abdel Khader Husseini, commanded Arab forces in Jerusalem in the 1948 Middle East war. He was killed in the fighting.

As a young man, Husseini studied at a military college in Damascus, Syria, and became an X-ray technician. He later developed a love for history, and studied the subject for two years in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1970s.

But Husseini had to break off his studies when Israeli officials placed him under town arrest in Jerusalem from 1981 to 1987, forbidding him from leaving the city limits and confining him to his home from sundown to sunrise.

He was accused of subversive activites but not put on trial.

Police said after Husseini’s arrest Sunday that he had renewed ″subversive hostile activities,″ including coordination and incitement of the 8-month-old Arab uprising in the occupied lands.

Police also closed Husseini’s Arab Studies Institute for one year, charging it was controlled and financed by the PLO and served as a meeting place for PLO activists.

Staff members said the institute was funded by international grants and provided information about the Palestinian people and its history.

Four days before his latest arrest, Husseini participated in a public dialogue with dovish Israelis, fielding tough questions from some participants and winning applause for his answers.

Asked whether Palestinians would be satisfied with a state alongside Israel, and not use it as a stepping stone to capturing all of Israel, he said:

″Indeed, I do have a dream. But just as I am not willing to let others impose their dreams upon me, I am not willing to impose my dreams on my fellow men.″

Husseini’s wife, Najat, said she believes her husband was arrested because of his dialogue with Israeli peace activists.

″Whenever he speaks about peace, they put him in prison,″ Mrs. Husseini said.