(photo credit: FINBARR O'REILLY / REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has forced into early retirement a senior Palestinian official who previously served as a top adviser to former prime minister Salam Fayyad.
The official, Jamal Zakout, who was one of the leaders of the first intifada that erupted in 1987, was also close to PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo.
Relations between the PA president and Fayyad and with Abed Rabbo have been strained lately following allegations that the two have forged an alliance with ousted Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan, an archrival of Abbas’s.
Abbas’s sudden decision to force Zakout into early retirement is seen in the context of the PA president’s campaign against Dahlan loyalists in Fatah.
Sources close to Abbas claim that Fayyad has received millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf country that hosts and backs Dahlan. Recently, PA security agents raided Fayyad’s offices in Ramallah, confiscating documents and summoning some of his top aides for interrogation.
The sources also claim that Abed Rabbo and Fayyad recently held a secret meeting in the UAE with Dahlan – a claim that Abed Rabbo has strongly denied.
The decision to sack Zakout follows the expulsion of several senior Fatah officials who were accused of maintaining close ties with Dahlan.
Zakout, who previously lived in the Gaza Strip, was a senior member of the Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Because of his leading role in the first intifada, he was deported by Israel to Lebanon in the late 1980s.