In Israel, non-Orthodox Jews get few funeral, burial options

JERUSALEM — Tens of thousands of Palestinians flooded East Jerusalem Friday as the coffin of Faisal Husseini, the top Palestinian official in charge of Jerusalem affairs, was carried through the streets.

Husseini, 61, considered a moderate and peace advocate in Palestinian politics, died last Thusday of a heart attack while on a visit to Kuwait.

Yossi Beilin, a former negotiator with the Palestinians and a leading Israeli dove, said Israel had lost a negotiating partner.

"He was a tough negotiator. He was a nationalist," Beilin said. "But being a nationalist did not mean, in his view, that the preference was to hate Israelis.

"I remember talking to him at length about a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation, and he would say to me, 'Why not a Palestinian-Israeli confederation?'"

The relative Israeli respect for Husseini was reflected in the procession, which was peaceful despite the overwhelming crowd.

According to the Associated Press, 23-year-old Nafiz Abdou, an Arab mourner, remarked "There are no [Israeli] police. There are no soldiers. The streets are full of Palestinians. I feel like they surrendered the city to us."

Israel's left-wing Meretz Party issued a statement of condolences, saying the Palestinian people had lost one of its great sons, who represented his people with honor, courage and responsibility.

However, many of Husseini's comments worried Israelis, who felt that his moderate image was highly relative.

Husseini freely told journalists that while the Palestinians were demanding a state only on land Israel had conquered in the 1967 Six Day War, such an arrangement would not necessarily bind coming generations of Palestinians.

In March, he told a Beirut audience that the Palestinian goal remained an Arab state in the entire territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and that his frequent contacts with Israeli officials were a necessary evil designed to put an end to relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Reports said Husseini died in his hotel room before attending an Arab conference against normalization of ties with Israel.

According to Reuters, a call Husseini made for improved Palestinian ties with Kuwait — which severed relations with the Palestinian leadership after Yasser Arafat supported Iraq during the Persian Gulf war — set off an uproar in Kuwait's Parliament last Wednesday.

Several Kuwaiti lawmakers reportedly said last week that Arafat was still unwelcome in the Gulf state.

Husseini's body was to be flown from Kuwait to Amman in a helicopter belonging to Jordan's King Abdullah. From there, it was to be transferred to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Husseini, born in Baghdad in 1940 to an aristrocratic family, was to be buried in Jerusalem this week, next to his father's grave in a cemetery near the Temple Mount.

Palestinian Authority President Arafat, in Brussels at the time of Husseini's death, said the Palestinian people had lost one of its great figures. Arafat described Husseini as a friend who was by his side through every phase of life — though the two clashed repeatedly over Husseini's attempts to build his own base of political support within Palestinian society.

Palestinians declared a three-day commercial strike in eastern Jerusalem in a sign of mourning.

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