As he prepares to submit a request to the UN in September for recognition of a
Palestinian state, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has also found
time to wage a relentless war against his former ally and friend, Fatah
strongman Muhammad Dahlan.
The rivalry between the two men, which reached
its peak last month when Abbas ordered his security forces to raid Dahlan’s
villa on the outskirts of Ramallah, has caused severe damage to Fatah and will
only serve Hamas’s interests, Fatah officials warned.
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have already taken advantage of the public power struggle between Abbas and
Hamas is now saying that it was right when it staged a coup
against the Fatah-dominated PA in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.
According to Hamas, Dahlan, who allegedly tried to stage a coup against Abbas in
the West Bank, tried to do the same thing to Hamas prior to the Islamist
movement’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip.
“The charges that Dahlan
had plotted to overthrow the Palestinian Authority leadership prove that Hamas
was right when it kicked Dahlan and all the Palestinian security forces out of
the Gaza Strip,” said a Hamas legislator from Gaza City. “This just proves that
we were right when we said that Dahlan, backed by the Israelis and Americans,
was seeking to stage a coup against the elected government of
Many Hamas officials have not hidden their satisfaction with the
growing tensions in Fatah, which has suffered from power struggles, bickering
and internal fighting almost from the day it was established more than four
The infighting in Fatah, as well as allegations of financial
corruption and abuse of power, was one of the main reasons why Fatah lost the
parliamentary election to Hamas in 2006.
The dispute between Abbas and
Dahlan seems to be far more serious than many Palestinians had thought. What
began as rumors about a personal dispute between Dahlan, the former Fatah
commander in the Gaza Strip, and the wealthy sons of Abbas, Yasser and Tareq, is
now threatening to divide the ruling Fatah faction.
Dahlan has many
supporters in the Gaza Strip, including hundreds of former security officers who
worked under him in the days when he headed the Preventive Security Force. Many
of these loyalists are now threatening to break away from Fatah and create their
own group in protest against the measures taken against Dahlan.
recommendation of Abbas, the Fatah Central Committee voted earlier this year in
favor of expelling Dahlan from the faction on the grounds that he had conspired
to topple Abbas.
A commission of inquiry set up by Abbas determined that
Dahlan and his few supporters in the West Bank had purchased weapons, mainly
from criminal elements amongst Israel’s Arab citizens, in preparation for
staging a coup against Abbas and the PA leadership.
The commission of
inquiry, like the Central Committee, consisted almost entirely of Abbas
loyalists and longtime allies. And since they all receive their salaries from
Abbas, it would have been a surprise had any of the commission or committee
members voted against Abbas’s recommendation.
The expulsion of Dahlan was
preceded with a clampdown ordered by Abbas on all his loyalists and institutions
in the West Bank. Most of Dahlan’s men, especially those who fled the Gaza Strip
before and after the Hamas takeover, have been rounded up and held in custody
without trial. Some have complained of torture at the hands of PA security
officers in Ramallah.
Moreover, a TV station and several news web sites
believed to be funded by Dahlan were ordered closed by Abbas.
month’s raid on Dahlan’s villa on the outskirts of Ramallah showed that Abbas
was determined to finish off his bitter enemy for once and for all. More than
200 security officers belonging to various branches of the PA security forces
participated in what has been described by eyewitnesses as a “commando
operation” on the villa in the fashionable a-Tira suburb.
himself was not harmed, all his bodyguards, aides and friends were
detained. The PA police also confiscated weapons and armored vehicles
used by Dahlan and his men. Shortly after the raid, Dahlan packed his
bags and rushed toward the Allenby Bridge, not before PA security officers
stopped his car and detained and assaulted his companions.
on Dahlan has also been accompanied by a barrage of “leaks” from Abbas’s office
about the ousted Fatah operative’s wrongdoings and
According to the “leaks,” Dahlan has been involved in
shipping weapons to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to help him in his battle
against the rebels and the “poisoning” of Yasser Arafat. Other leaks emanating
from Abbas’s office have claimed that Dahlan was behind the unrest in the Sinai
town of El- Arish, where Muslim fundamentalists and Beduin have been waging
terror attacks on government troops.
Sufyan Abu Zaida, a top Fatah
official closely associated with Dahlan, mocked the reports about Dahlan’s
alleged involvement in stirring unrest in Egypt and killing Arafat. Abu Zaida
pointed out that Abbas’s aides had also tried to sell a story according to which
Dahlan was responsible for arming anti-government militias in
“What is happening to Dahlan has nothing to do with transparency
or accountability or the rule of law,” Abu Zaida noted. “Instead, it’s
all about a personal grudge and jealousy.” He added: “Hamas today doesn’t have
to make any effort because there are people in Fatah who are doing the job for
it by weakening Fatah.” Abu Zaida and those who are familiar with Dahlan know
very well that he won’t give up easily. Dahlan has already come out with a
series of serious allegations against Abbas, including squandering public
Dahlan claims that Abbas and his associates are responsible for
the fact that more than $1.2b. which they reportedly inherited from Arafat have
gone missing. Dahlan has vowed to return to Ramallah to continue the
battle to clean his name and prove that he is the victim of a conspiracy
concocted by Abbas and a number of top Fatah leaders. Dahlan said last week that
until now the PA leadership has not provided any evidence to support any of the
charges against him.
Samir Mashharawi, another senior Fatah official and
longtime friend of Dahlan, revealed that the rivalry with Abbas was nothing but
a personal matter. He said that some Fatah leaders had reported to Abbas about a
meeting where Dahlan allegedly said that the PA president was a weak figure and
that his sons were exploiting their father’s position to become
Mashharawi said: “I personally sat with Abbas and talked with
him about the measures against Dahlan. Abbas openly admitted that the reason he
was angry with Dahlan was because he [Dahlan] had been badmouthing him and his
sons. Abbas told me, ‘your friend has a big mouth. He’s been saying that
I handed the Gaza Strip to Hamas. He’s also been saying bad things about my
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