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(photo credit: AP [file])
Former Fatah security commander Muhammad Dahlan on Tuesday called on Hamas not to recognize Israel's right to exist, pointing out that Fatah had never recognized it.
This was the first time since the beginning of the peace process 15 years ago that a senior Fatah official has said that his faction does not recognize Israel's right to exist.
Dahlan's remarks were made in an interview with the Palestinian Authority's official Palestine TV station.
Dahlan, who has kept a low profile ever since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, resurfaced during Operation Cast Lead. Since then, he has made several public appearances, the latest being last Friday when he was seen praying next to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in a Ramallah mosque.
Fatah officials said that Dahlan's return to the center stage is an indication of his desire to play a role in any post-Abbas administration. They said that Dahlan was recently appointed as a special adviser to Abbas.
Dahlan confirmed that he was "providing advice and ideas" to Abbas, especially regarding to the reconciliation talks with Hamas that were launched in Cairo last week.
Until Operation Cast Lead, Dahlan was rarely seen in public. His aides said that after the Hamas "coup," he and scores of top Fatah operatives moved to Egypt.
Hamas said it was forced to drive the Fatah men out of the Gaza Strip because they were preparing, with the help of the US, to stage a coup against the Hamas government.
In the interview, Dahlan was asked about reports that Fatah was demanding that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist as a precondition for the establishment of a Palestinian "unity government." He called the reports "misleading" and said Hamas was "putting words in our mouths."
Dahlan added: "They say that Fatah has asked them to recognize Israel's right to exist and this is a big deception. For the one thousandth time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. Rather, we are asking Hamas not to do so because Fatah never recognized Israel's right to exist."
He explained that it was the PLO, and not Fatah, which recognized Israel's right to exist when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
Fatah is the largest faction in the PLO. The second largest faction is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
"We acknowledge that the PLO did recognize Israel's right to exist, but we are not bound by it as a resistance faction," he added.
Dahlan boasted that the PA under Yasser Arafat had killed more Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel than Hamas.
"I want to point out that the Palestinian Authority under Abu Ammar [Arafat's nom du guerre] targeted collaborators 10 times more than Hamas," he said. "We put many of them on trial and executed many others. But we did this in accordance with the law and not the Hamas way."
Dahlan revealed that Hamas had executed without trial a number of bodyguards who escorted Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam, who was killed in an IAF raid on his brother's house in Gaza City during Operation Cast Lead.
Dahlan expressed discontent over Fatah's failure to convene its long-awaited sixth general conference, ever since the last general conference meeting 20 years ago. The conference is supposed to pave the way for holding internal elections in Fatah - a move that is likely to see the rise of "young guard" Fatah members like Dahlan to key decision-making positions in the faction.
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