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The Rose Report: The Curse of Mohammed Dahlan

Binyamin Rose

If Israeli politics borders on the inexplicable, Palestinian politics is downright irrational

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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B efore getting too high or too low about the new power-sharing agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, consider the following.

In 1996, Hamas and the PA were locked in a power struggle over Gaza. Mohammed Dahlan, then commander of the PA’s infamous Preventive Security Service, arrested Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar, humiliating him by cutting off his beard.

In 2008, al-Zahar suffered a seemingly harsher blow, when the Israel Air Force killed his son during an air raid in Operation Cast Lead.

But it wasn’t a harsher blow in his eyes.

Dr. Ronni Shaked, a former Israeli intelligence officer and current Palestinian affairs expert at Hebrew University’s Truman Research Institute, told the foreign press in Jerusalem of a conversation he had with al-Zahar shortly after his son’s death. “He told me: ‘The saddest moment in my life wasn’t when the Israelis killed my son. The saddest moment in my life was when Dahlan cut my beard.’ ”

If Israeli politics borders on the inexplicable, Palestinian politics is downright irrational.

Dahlan was deposed from the PA and went into a self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi for six years to avoid being jailed on corruption charges. From that perch, he became a fundraiser for the organization he once loathed, recently giving Hamas over $5 million to help 100 Gazan families rebuild homes damaged by Israeli air raids.

At the end of July, al-Zahar and Dahlan met again, this time on a video link, as Dahlan spelled out his vision for the Hamas-PA reconciliation that culminated in the accord signed last week in Cairo. Bloomberg News reported that al-Zahar “mumbled praise for the new understandings” while Dahlan told Bloomberg by e-mail: “We hope that we will manage to forget the past and start over. Hatred and differences should not last forever.”

 

It’s too early to tell where Dahlan will land in the new PA-Hamas hierarchy, but if history is any guide, the fellow connected to money usually lands a plum position. Dahlan is no sweetheart. He has obliquely referred to terror attacks on Israel as “honorable operations,” and shortly before he fled to Abu Dhabi, he invoked the “al-Aqsa mosque is in danger” canard, threatening a Palestinian ambush against Israel in response.

Yet the West, along with the Israeli left, has regularly allowed itself to be deceived by Dahlan, just as they once convinced themselves that Bashar al-Assad was a mild-mannered, Western-trained ophthalmologist. President George W. Bush supported Dahlan’s 2007 coup against Hamas, after the terror group beat the PA in the democratic elections Bush had so avidly sought. Israeli prime ministers, including Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert, armed PA militias under leaders like Dahlan, operating from the erroneous assumption they would use the weapons to thwart “honorable operations” against Israel.

Ramzy Baroud, an Arab journalist, had Dahlan pegged in an op-ed he wrote for Al Jazeera entitled “The Curse of Mohammed Dahlan,” calling Dahlan a “self-obsessive warlord.”

The biggest curse, at least from Baroud’s perspective, is that infighting between the PA and Hamas could result in an overall weakening of the Palestinian position, to the point where the leadership would forgo the “right of return” for an old plan that gives the Palestinians a state in Gaza and parts of the Sinai desert.

Could their curse end up being Israel’s blessing? (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 681)

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