BRUSSELS (Jun. 23)
Palestinian nationalist leader Faisal Husseini was busy here last week lobbying officials of the European Community on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The E.C. froze all contacts with the PLO this year because its chairman, Yasir Arafat supported Saddam Hussein of Iraq in the Persian Gulf crisis. But according to Husseini, who lives in East Jerusalem and chairs the Arab Studies Center there. “The peace process cannot work without building relations with the PLO.”
Husseini has been detained without trial several times by Israeli authorities, accused of being one of the organizers of the Palestinian uprising. He is a supporter of the PLO who is known to have differed with it at times. Before the intifada he campaigned for a non-violent resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But he stood up for the necessity of working with the PLO during his meetings with senior members of the Belgian Foreign Ministry and with Abel Matutes, the E.C. commissioner for Mediterranean affairs.
“The PLO, which is representative of all Palestinians, must be present” at peace negotiations, Husseini emphasized.
When asked if his diplomatic contacts had yielded any promises, he would only say that the talks here had been “important, frank and constructive.”
Husseini came to Brussels to participate in a week dedicated to European-Palestinian friendship, organized by a Belgian group.
He commented on last week’s victory of candidates of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas in elections to the Hebron Chamber of Commerce, telling the Belgian daily Le Soir that the extremists’ success should serve as a warning that “people will distance themselves from the moderates as long as peace efforts appear futile because of Israeli intransigence.”
Husseini also said the sincerity of President Bush’s efforts for Middle East peace will soon be tested by whether or not he conditions Israel’s new requests for economic assistance on its making “positive pledges toward the peace process.”
Israel is expected to ask for $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to absorb Soviet immigrants.
The E.C. Executive Commission has recently decided to allot $12 million to improve social and economic conditions in the West Bank. In addition, the Palestinians will receive food aid in the amount of $9.5 million.
About $72 million in post-Gulf War economic aid has yet to be approved by the European Parliament, the E.C.’s legislative body.
Husseini discussed European economic assistance for the Palestinians with Matutes. The E.C. official, who is Spanish, promised to visit Husseini when he is in Israel on July 10.
In the Le Soir interview, Husseini admitted that after more than three years of struggle, the Palestinian uprising, known as the intifada, must be reassessed.
Referring to the growing internecine violence within the Arab community, Husseini said, “The United Command of the intifada wants to stop the killing of collaborators,” but “the small youth groups are not easy to control.”