TEL AVIV (Jan. 29)
Faisal al-Husseini, a Palestinian activist with considerable influence in the West Bank, was released from six months’ administrative detention Sunday amid rumors that he is being groomed as a possible negotiating partner with Israel.
On retuning to his East Jerusalem home Sunday morning from Kfar Yona prison, near Netanya, he told reporters he had made no deal with the Israeli authorities.
Husseini, who heads the Arab Research Institute in East Jerusalem, supports the Palestine Liberation Organization. But he is known to differ with it on some issues.
He was reported last week to be willing to consider Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s idea for Palestinian local elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Rabin stipulated the elections would have to be preceded by a three- to six-month lull in the intifada, as the Palestinians call their 14-month-old uprising.
His proposal was flatly rejected by the PLO and greeted with skepticism among Rabin’s fellow ministers.
Husseini neither rejected nor endorsed the plan. He said he would agree to free, democratic elections in the territories if they were held under U.N. auspices with no interference by Israel.
But he has not yet decided whether he would participate personally in such elections. Asked if he would agree to a suspension of the uprising, Husseini insisted there must be no preconditions.
Persistent reports in the news media on the eve of his release hinted that some sort of understanding may have been reached between Husseini and Rabin’s defense establishment.
MEETING IN JAIL CONFIRMED
The Cabinet confirmed Sunday that Shmuel Goren, coordinator of activities in the administered territories, secretly met with Husseini in prison last week.
Goren was representing Rabin. Ma’ariv said neither Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin nor Foreign Minister Moshe Arens were privy to the meetings.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Saturday night that Shamir was unaware of the meetings and that Goren acted exclusively on behalf of Rabin.
Rabin, for his part, said he had not initiated the conversations, but approved them at Goren’s suggestion.
The defense minister said that he himself, the civil administration in the territories and the military authorities should meet from time to time with prominent West Bank Palestinians to hear their views and explain Israel’s positions.
According to sources who asked to remain anonymous, Husseini will try to gauge the mood in the territories with respect to Rabin’s elections proposal and other matters.
Al Hamishmar quoted Rabin as saying Husseini would be back in prison if he resumed the activities for which he was arrested.
Those activities were never made clear inasmuch as administrative detention, a holdover from the British Mandate, allows incarceration without charges or trial.
Ma’ariv reported Sunday that the Defense Ministry will approve Husseini’s request to travel abroad for consultations aimed at advancing an Israeli peace initiative.
He will be permitted to go abroad to gain support for Palestinian participation in talks with Israel, provided he does not declare an intention to meet PLO leaders, the newspaper said.
PLO WOULD FAVOR ‘REAL’ ELECTIONS
Husseini told reporters, “I believe that the PLO will agree to any elections if they will be real, democratic and free elections, and under the supervision of the United Nations and with no preconditions about what will happen after that.”
He also said he thinks some Israelis at least are moving in “the right direction.”
He’aretz reported that the West Bank military government and the military commanders in the Gaza Strip continue to have contact with Palestinian public figures in order to clarify positions.
Members of the Nablus City Council, which for all practical purposes ceased to function a year ago, were summoned to meet with Col. Shmuel Morad, military governor of the city, who asked their opinion about local elections, Ha’aretz said.
The same newspaper reported that Brig. Gen. Aryeh Ramot, head of the Gaza Strip civil administration, had secret meetings over the weekend with 12 Gaza Strip leaders whom he considers moderates.