Muhammad Dahlan returns to Ramallah

Fatah legislator is seen as a possible challenger to Abbas's leadership.

dahlan tough 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
dahlan tough 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Fatah legislator Muhammad Dahlan returned to Ramallah on Monday after spending six weeks abroad for medical treatment, sparking speculation about his future plans. Some Fatah activists said they expected Dahlan to spearhead efforts to reform Fatah ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in the Palestinian Authority. Others said they did not rule out the possibility that Dahlan would openly challenge the leadership of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Sources close to Dahlan said he was planning to "resume normal work" after spending six weeks in Germany and Serbia, where he underwent surgery on his ankles. They described his health as "good." The sources said Dahlan did not have any plans to return to his home in the Gaza Strip because of threats against him by Hamas. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said last week that his movement would not allow Dahlan to return to the Gaza Strip under any circumstances. Zahar and other Hamas leaders have accused Dahlan of conspiring with Israel and the US to topple the Hamas government. Some Fatah leaders in Ramallah have also held Dahlan responsible for the rout of Fatah's security forces in the Gaza Strip in June. They said they would work toward foiling any attempt by him to return to power. Dahlan's return to Ramallah coincides with growing turmoil in Fatah over the need to reform the faction and to pave the way for young-guard leaders to have a greater say in decision making. Abbas and Fatah veterans are under increasing pressure to implement major reforms in the faction following Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip. Estranged Fatah leader Farouk Kaddoumi said Monday that Abbas was "living the worst stage in his life" and called for removing all corrupt officials from power. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, also accused Abbas and his senior aides of serving the interests of Israel. "They are trying to preserve their interests with the occupation," he said. "In the absence of accountability and supervision, many of the leaders have filled their pockets with public funds. Abbas made a mistake by opposing the militarization of the intifada. Ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords he has been calling for an end to the armed resistance." Kaddoumi said the Oslo Accords were responsible for the disarray in Fatah. "The Oslo Accords confused Fatah and created divisions among its leaders," he said. "Before Oslo we were all united. Fatah must return to the armed struggle. "The late president Yasser Arafat realized this fact. When he reached the conclusion that he was not going to get anything from Israel and that Israel was not prepared to establish a Palestinian state, he was forced to return to the armed struggle against Israel." In a bid to resolve the crisis in Fatah, Abbas met in Jordan last week with two senior Fatah officials, Abu Maher Ghnaim and Ahmed Afaneh, and urged them to move from Tunisia to Ramallah. The two are opposed to the Oslo Accords and, together with Kaddoumi, have publicly challenged Abbas's authority. Palestinian sources said the two veteran leaders rejected Abbas's invitation on the grounds that Fatah had been "hijacked" by pro-Israel and pro-US elements. Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA-funded daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, launched a scathing attack on the old-guard leaders of Fatah and held them responsible for the decline in the faction's popularity. Referring to last week's meeting in Ramallah of the Fatah central council, a body dominated by veteran Fatah leaders, Barghouti said: "These elderly leaders met for the first time in 100 months to discuss technocratic issues. They ignored the divisions in Fatah and the fact that the faction is headed toward the abyss."•