Admired by the people, feared by the elite

Palestinian supporters of Mohammed Dahlan hold posters depicting him during a protest against Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza on 18 December 2014 [File photo]

The real reason Hamas is flirting with dismissed Fatah leader

Amid reports about Hamas meeting with dismissed Fatah leader and former opponent Mohammed Dahlan in Cairo, questions arise about the lack of transparency and the results of these meetings.

By Adnan Abu, trans. Cynthia Milan, Al Monitor
July 03, 2017

Hamas made a breakthrough in its relationship with dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan after a delegation, led by Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, met with him during a nine-day visit to Cairo that began on June 4th.

Although the meetings were secret, Samir Masharawi, a close associate of Dahlan, revealed on June 13 that the latter, along with Majed Abu Shamala and Suleiman Abu Mutlaq, leaders of the Fatah Democratic Reformist Current, held four meetings with the Hamas delegation in Egypt, without specifying the exact dates. They reportedly discussed the conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip –deteriorating as a result of power cuts and the closure of the Rafah crossing– and tackled the reconstruction of Gaza.

On June 15, Rai al-Youm reported that Sinwar held four meetings with Dahlan in Cairo under the supervision of Egyptian intelligence chief Khaled Fawzy, noting that Sinwar was accompanied by Rawhi Mushtaha, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, and Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Abu Naim, the head of the security forces in Gaza.

Hamas remained silent and neither confirmed nor denied meeting with Dahlan, which raised questions about its secrecy. Did Sinwar meet Dahlan personally, or were the meetings attended by lower-ranking officials from both sides? Have they reached any agreement?

Ismail Haniyeh, 2nd L, who last May replaced Khaaled Meshaal as chief of the Hamas politburo, exchanges a hand-crush with Mohammed Dahlan, December 2014 when he was Prime Minister in Gaza. Photo from Al Akhbar.

Al-Monitor contacted Hamas leaders at home and abroad to obtain clear and specific information about the meetings but none of them provided a clear answer, for no specific reason.

Ahmed Yousef, a former political adviser to the head of Hamas’ political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, who had met with Dahlan on several occasions in Palestine and abroad, told Al-Monitor,

“Hamas’ ideology is based on members listening carefully to the leadership and abiding by its orders, regardless of whether or not they agree on rapprochement with Dahlan. However, Hamas is embarrassed to announce publicly that it is getting closer to Dahlan because it had previously accused him of serious violations and it thus fears a rapprochement. This is why it is unsure how to promote Dahlan within the movement, although the leadership might perceive him as the one who will help the Gaza Strip overcome the deteriorating living conditions.”

A few days after the leaks, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, said on June 18 that the movement met with close associates of Dahlan and does not mind his return to Gaza, but he did not mention any meeting with Dahlan personally.

For his part, Fatah leader Sufian Abu Zaida revealed on June 23 that Masharawi will soon visit Gaza, followed by Dahlan.

Imad Mohsen, a media spokesman for Dahlan’s Democratic Reformist Current, told Al-Monitor,

“Although Dahlan is extending a helping hand to Hamas to improve Gaza’s living conditions, the movement’s reluctance to reveal to its members what happened is due to Hamas inciting against him in the previous years. However, the movement is — albeit slowly — convincing its members of getting closer to Dahlan. We understand the situation and we see Hamas’ embarrassment as an opportunity for it to stop accusing us of treason. We have different political views; we are opponents, but not enemies.”

Dahlan provides humanitarian and financial assistance to poor families in Gaza. In February, he gave 185 outstanding university students a $500 grant each and donated $10,000 for the Gaza Sports Club. In addition, the National Islamic Committee for Social Solidarity that is affiliated with the United Arab Emirates has been providing regular financial assistance to Palestinians in Gaza. The committee, established in 2014, is supervised by Dahlan’s Democratic Reformist Current and represents all Palestinian factions, including Hamas,

While Dahlan spoke positively to Al-Monitor about Sinwar at the beginning of April, some Hamas supporters backed rapprochement with Dahlan while others opposed it, warning of a civil war between the Palestinians.

Hamas’ silence may be due to its history with Dahlan, especially the armed clashes it waged with his supporters before it took over Gaza in 2007. In addition, Dahlan has close ties with Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have expressed hostility toward Hamas. Thus, a Hamas-Dahlan rapprochement could harm the movement’s relationship with Qatar and Turkey, which are also hostile to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.

Pres. Mahmoud Abbas, left, with then-Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, during better times in 2006, in Ramallah. Photo by Kevin Frayer/AP

Hani al-Masri, the head of the Palestinian Centre for Policy Research & Strategic Studies – Masarat, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas and Dahlan were somewhat forced to come together in light of their growing rivalry against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas was left with no choice in light of Abbas’ measures against Gaza, and Dahlan can only get closer to Hamas to overcome the bitterness of the dismissal of his supporters from the Fatah movement during its seventh general conference in Ramallah back in November 2016.”

On June 19, Azzam al-Tamimi, the head of the London-based Al-Hiwar TV channel that is close to Hamas, warned of a nationally rejected rapprochement with Dahlan. In a TV interview on Al-Hiwar June 19, he described this rapprochement as a big mistake and political suicide for Hamas.

Meanwhile, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity,

“Hamas’ rapprochement with Dahlan is suicide. It is well aware of his close security connections with Israel and anti-Hamas regional countries, particularly Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Hamas will soon realize that instead of providing the movement with a lifeline, Dahlan is pushing it under.”

Gaza’s undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ghazi Hamad, who is in contact with Dahlan, told Al-Monitor,

“It was not easy for Hamas to take a step toward Dahlan. The movement was quite hesitant because he was responsible for the bloody clashes in 2007. He has close ties with Arab countries that have expressed hostility toward Hamas and he has played a regional role in inciting against political Islam. This is why, up until recently, Hamas believed rapprochement with Dahlan would not be the best move.”

On March 6, Mushir al-Masri, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for Hamas and a media spokesman for its parliamentary bloc, said that Dahlan’s rivalry was not only with Hamas but with the Palestinian people, and that his criminal role against Hamas could not be forgotten.

Although Hamas is aware of Dahlan’s regional and international relations and regardless of the political rivalry between the two, the aggravating humanitarian disaster in Gaza may prompt the movement to turn a blind eye to the negative aspects of the rapprochement in order to overcome this harsh phase with as little damage as possible. Today, Hamas’ most important mission is to positively promote its connection with Dahlan within the movement as it believes he may use UAE funding to help improve the living situation in Gaza and ease the Israeli blockade on Gaza thanks to his close relations with Egypt and Israel.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) walks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan after he arrives in Cairo International Airport, Egypt June 19, 2017. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency via Reuters

The Dahlan Plan: Without Hamas and Without Abbas

True, the plan leaves Hamas in control of security and doesn’t demilitarize it, but in Mohammed Dahlan, Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation

Zvi Bar’el, Opinion, Haaretz premium
June 29, 2017

While Israel counts the meagre hours of electricity allocated each day to Gaza’s two million people, a complex arrangement is being cooked up between the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Gaza and Jerusalem. The purpose is to make Mohammed Dahlan, a political rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, government chief in Gaza, lift most of the closure imposed on the Strip by Egypt and Israel, build a new power station in Egyptian Rafah funded by the UAE, and later build a port.

If this political experiment succeeds, Abbas will be pushed into a dark corner and Dahlan will act to take his place, either by elections or de facto recognition of his leadership. Egypt is already sending diesel fuel to Gaza at market prices, but without the taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority. The UAE has earmarked $150 million to build a power station, and Egypt will soon gradually open the Rafah crossing to people and goods.

It’s still too early to assess whether this plan will be fully implemented, and if Hamas will agree to place Dahlan at the head of the Gaza government, a step that could all but sever Gaza from the West Bank, especially given the long feud between Abbas and Dahlan. On the other hand, if the plan does come to fruition, it could make an Israeli-Egyptian dream come true.

For Egypt, the plan holds the promise of an end to Hamas’ co-operation with terror groups in Sinai, and it would give Egypt a way out of the closure it has imposed on Gaza and the possibility of opening the Gaza market to Egyptian goods. For Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the plan’s key is the appointment of Dahlan, who is close to defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, as head of the “state of Gaza.”

If the appointment is made, it will ensure a split between Gaza and the West Bank that will make it very difficult to negotiate over the future of the territories. But contrary to the situation now, Israel will have a legitimate partner in Gaza. The lifting of the closure, which would no longer mean much after Egypt opened the Rafah crossing, would give Israel another diplomatic dividend that could reduce international pressure, especially by the United States and even if only partially, for Israel to Israel to move ahead on negotiations.

Thus, with all due caution, we can say that if the plan is implemented, it will ensure a fine profit for all sides, except for Abbas and Palestinian aspirations to establish a state. True, the plan leaves Hamas in control of security and doesn’t demilitarize it, but Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation with Israel. Qatari and Turkish involvement would be neutralized in the Strip, while Egypt and the UAE, Israel’s new friend, would shore up the agreement if breached.

Anyone who supports “the economy first” as a way around a diplomatic solution, like Netanyahu, Lieberman and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, should embrace this agreement. But so far, not a peep has been heard from Israel. The government, which has already learned from the electricity crisis that it can’t evade responsibility for the Strip, is held captive by the failed concept that what’s good for Hamas is bad for Israel, and what helps Gazans strengthens Hamas. Israel would rather prepare for the next violent clash in the summer, just as long as it doesn’t have to initiate anything or be seen as letting Hamas rule, even though Israel long ago recognized Hamas’ control in Gaza as an advantage.

According to the plan, Israel wouldn’t even have to recognize the new government that would be established in Gaza, and so it wouldn’t have to appear concerned over Abbas’ standing. After exactly 10 years, a fifth of the entire period of the occupation, Gaza has been under closure. Now there might be a chance to change the concept and try a new strategy in which Gazans will be the most important thing, not the status of the Hamas leadership or Israel’s prestige.

A Palestinian supporter of Fatah’s former head in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan, holds a poster depicting Dahlan during a protest against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City, Gaza, Dec. 18, 2014. Photo by Mohammed Salem/ Reuters

Will Fatah split?

A new current has been active within the Fatah movement. Its founders have named it the “Democratic Reformist Current,” which consists of a large number of leaders who were dismissed by the movement’s leader Mahmoud Abbas, because they refused its policies, as well as other active leaders.

By Mohammed Othman, trans. Joelle El-Khoury
April 05, 2016

The conflict within the movement started to fully surface after former leader Mohammed Dahlan was dismissed from Fatah’s Central Committee on corruption charges and ended all ties with the movement on June 12, 2011. Yet in 2015, the Corruption Crimes Court in Ramallah rejected the accusations directed against him and closed the case. Dahlan has been residing in the United Arab Emirates ever since.

Dahlan’s dismissal was followed by the dismissal of many other leaders and cadres supporting him, which resulted in the movement splitting into two currents: the pro-Abbas current and the opposing reformist current led by Dahlan.

Abdul Hamid al-Masri, a former member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, who was dismissed from the council two years ago, and who is a founder of the reformist current from the Gaza Strip, told Al-Monitor that the current is a part of the Fatah movement and that they are seeking reforms within Fatah through this current.

He said, “We want to bring about reforms in terms of all of the defects caused to the movement’s internal regulations, the violations and the monopoly of leaders over the movement’s decision-making. These include the dismissal of Dahlan and fellow members of the Revolutionary Council, including myself. We do not perceive the dismissal as legal, because it did not go in line with the movement’s internal regulations, such as a two-thirds vote of the Revolutionary Council’s members that is required for the members’ dismissal. For that reason, many Fatah members and leaders have rejected the dismissal.”

The current, whose popular base within Fatah goes beyond the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, manages many charities that receive financial support and aid, according to Masri….Masri believes that the changes that will be brought about and the elimination of corruption within Fatah will inevitably end its problems.


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