The forbidden fruit of reconciliation between Hamas and Dahlan

Senior Hamas political leader meets with Mohammed Dahlan in an undisclosed location. Al-Akhbar
Published Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Reconciliation with Mohammed Dahlan (Abu Fadi) is not the first ‘taboo’ to be dropped by Hamas. Recently, there were suggestions Hamas would hold direct talks with Israel, “to negotiate strongly in order to restore rights.” However, Dahlan brings up painful memories for Hamas’ supporters, for the suffering they went through before and during the Palestinian division. Reconciliation with Abu Fadi also provokes his archrival Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), something that Hamas seem to be seeking these days.
Gaza – Palestinian political history underwent several stages during which alliances were often switched, until the Oslo accords came and drew a line in the sand, on one side of which stood the forces that championed the slogan of “peace,” and on the other the forces of resistance. There was overlap and intersection between the two sides sometimes, but the decision made by the largest resistance faction, that is Hamas, to enter the political arena, led it to a major battle against its archrival Fatah, the impact of which continues to this day.
One of the biggest titles of the Fatah-Hamas rivalry is Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan had withdrawn from Gaza before Hamas took over the enclave, and many in Hamas are deeply averse to him over his history in repressing the movement and its supporters when he was the chief of the notorious Preventive Security Service. However, Hamas finds itself forced to pursue this bitter option to avoid a more bitter one. After forsaking power and letting the burden fall on Abu Mazen, the latter did not act to integrate the 45,000 civil servants in Gaza Hamas is still burdened with. So Hamas is now looking to corner Abu Mazen, and what better way to do it than by waving the name of Mohammed Dahlan?
Is this political acumen or is this purely just interests speaking? The answer to this question may not be as important as knowing how serious Hamas is about dialogue with Dahlan, especially since Abu Fadi still sees the Islamist movement as his number one enemy. But the man holds a lot of sway in the region, and has close links to Gulf financial safety nets. His strong connections with the regime in the UAE have also strengthened his position with the anti-Hamas regime in Cairo.
On Dahlan’s side, there are a number of important considerations to take into account. For example, there are his supporters in Fatah. Observers believe that the fact some voices in recent Revolutionary Council meetings raised the possibility of Dahlan’s return along with other expelled members to Fatah, reinforces the absolute conviction that it is impossible to keep the man away from the political scene. However, Abbas’s rigidity and personal dispute with Dahlan, in addition to growing tensions between supporters of the two factions, could favor the opponents of the two men led by Hamas.
‘Courting statements’
There are a number of statements made by Hamas leaders than can be seen in the context of the reconciliation with Dahlan, albeit the vice president of Hamas’ political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk recently downplayed the official nature of these statements even when the names and ranks of the people who made them suggest otherwise.
Senior Hamas leader Salah Bardawil had said that his movement would not mind breaking the ice with Dahlan on the condition of completing reconciliation in the community.
 Similarly, Hamas MP in the Legislative Council Yahya Moussa – who is known for his controversial positions – hinted at the possibility of opening channels of communication with Dahlan on the basis of national partnership. He even said that, “Dahlan’s past is better than the present of Abbas, who runs the Palestinian situation with a defeatist mindset, and whose approach to the settlement process with Israel did not achieve anything other than more land confiscations.”
It is noteworthy to mention that the pragmatic Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef was the first to go public with Hamas’ intention to seek rapprochement with Dahlan and his supporters in Gaza.
Beyond intentions, some place these statements in the context of haggling and political blackmail against Mahmoud Abbas, more than they express a mood within Hamas that indeed welcomes an alliance with Dahlan.
Member of the Fatah Central Committee Jamal Muheisen says that Hamas’ wooing of Dahlan can only be understood in the context of troublemaking. He added, “Hamas wanted to hand over the financial burden to the consensus government, but the government is not an ATM. Hamas escalated last month to put pressure on the president, but when this was met with a firm position and reconciliation was frozen, Hamas started using the Dahlan card.”
Fatah leader Yahya Rabah corroborates this assessment. He said, “It is not up to Hamas whether to reconcile with Dahlan or not. Dahlan refuses to be part of Hamas’ game, and has not responded to their statements.” Rabah downplayed Hamas’ overtures. “The foolish parties in Hamas are embarrassed by the president’s great achievements in terms of recognition of the Palestinian state and the presentation of the Palestinian project at the UN Security Council, after [Hamas] engaged in gratuitous battles with the occupation in Gaza.”
Precursors to reconciliation
It is hard to ascertain what is really going on from all these views. It might be worthwhile to note the collaboration between some Hamas leaders and the pro-Dahlan faction in Gaza, especially in humanitarian matters through the National Commission for Development and Social Solidarity financed by official Emirati institutions. Hamas controls financial matters in the commission through MP Ismail al-Ashqar, while other affairs – logistics and public relations – are handled by other factions. This is one of the most explicit forms of collaboration between Hamas and Dahlan.
Hamas also provides facilities to the Palestinian Center for Human Perseverance (FATA) in Gaza, which is run by Dahlan’s wife Jalila, who has been nicknamed the “mother of the poor.”
Although Hamas controls the work of NGOs in Gaza with an iron fist, after commandeering some and shutting down others, things are different with FATA, which Hamas reopened two years ago. This organization operates under a broader margin of freedom, offering various programs that Hamas institutions benefit from, such as caring for orphans and impoverished university students, and helping with the restoration of homes.
Rapprochement with Dahlan and facilities given to his wife were stepped up after she visited Gaza in April to inaugurate projects overseen by her organization. Interestingly, former Fatah member Nasser Jumaa (expelled on the back of charges of misdemeanor), who is affiliated to Dahlan, says that Ahmed Yousef, Salah Bardawil, and Ismail al-Ashqar of Hamas met with Dahlan repeatedly in Dubai, from the gateway of the solidarity commission.
Jumaa said,

 “These figures are not marginal. Clearly, there are important leaders calling for reconciliation with Dahlan.” He added, “it is Hamas’ right to find ways to break its political isolation, but Abu Fadi does not like temporary, partial solutions. His dispute with Hamas is not personal but purely political, and for this reason, he did not respond to statements calling for reconciliation with him.”

 Going a little while back, the return of the pro-Dahlan expelled Fatah member Sufian Abu Zaida to Gaza earlier this year can be seen in this context as well. Others who returned with him include Alaa Yaghi and Majed Abu Shamala. Although this was seen as good faith on Hamas’ part for the sake of reconciliation, Abu Zaida published an article titled “Hamas Courts Dahlan,” in which he wrote,

“No doubt, Dahlan knows Hamas more than any other Palestinian leader. He was burned by its fire and vice versa. Nevertheless, we hope and we seek to restore the relationship on certain foundations.”

On the other hand, Dahlan posted on Facebook a link to an article published on the pro-Dahlan website Amad opposing reconciliation with Hamas, which the article described as “an opportunistic move meant to flee forward and put pressure on one side but not the other.” This suggests Dahlan gives priority to internal reconciliation in Fatah over reconciliation with Hamas.
Regarding Dahlan’s return to Gaza, MP Yahya Moussa denied throughAl-Akhbar statements attributed to him in which he allegedly called on Dahlan to return since he has a family in Gaza.
Moussa said,

“It is difficult to enter into gratuitous alliances with any side, even if our situation is very difficult at present. At the same time, however, there is no veto on anyone who can push national interests forward.”

Reconciling within Fatah
As Fatah’s seventh conference has now been scheduled for next month, escalation against Dahlan has increased. The Palestinian anti-graft commission declared a few days ago that it has referred a case involving the expelled Fatah leader to the corruption crimes tribunal. Meanwhile, the corruption tribunal published an ad in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida setting the date for a public court hearing for Dahlan on December 18.
Despite this, there are behind-the-scenes efforts in Fatah working for Dahlan’s return and to unify its ranks, after figures in the movement finally realized the extent of the political influence the man has.
Sources told Al-Akhbar that a recent Fatah meeting was marred by sharp quarrels between a faction categorically opposed to Dahlan’s return, and another proposing ways to bring him back to the fold.
The dispute mainly took place between Fatah leaders Tawfiq Tirawi and Jamal Muheisen. But member of the Revolutionary Council Ziad Abu Ein denied putting forward the issue, telling Al-Akhbar,

“We cannot meet with Dahlan now. The Palestinians are averse to any person establishing foreign relations in the name of Palestine.” Yahya Rabbah had also denied that Dahlan is a priority for Fatah at present. He said, “Internal reconciliation is achievable unlike reconciliation between Hamas and Dahlan, which seems impossible.”

Meanwhile, a leader affiliated to Dahlan said, “Dahlan wields great influence within the movement and does not consider himself to be outside it,” pointing out that Dahlan is not in a hurry to reconcile with Abbas, and is instead wagering on the latter’s old age, illness, and the end of his eligibility to rule, stressing that Hamas knows this very well.
Egypt between Abbas and Dahlan
In a related development, there has been a lot of fuss about the nature of the relationship between Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, which explains the limited visits Abbas has made to Cairo. By contrast, Dahlan has made near-official and intimidate visits at the level of reception, as sources close to him say Sisi receives him in his private quarters. The sources say that Dahlan’s mediation helped secure the reopening of the Rafah crossing briefly a few weeks ago. However, the sources say Sisi does not want to drive a wedge within Fatah but wants to heal the rift inside it, to confront the tide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and readjust the situation in the Strip in favor of the Palestinian Authority.
On the other side of the divide, sources close to Abbas note that the justifications Egypt cited to Abbas did not convince him in the most recent meeting more than a week ago.
They said,

“The person Egypt wants Abbas to reconcile with (Dahlan) has corrupted Fatah from inside, and attacked Abbas’ family describing it as corrupt.”

The sources said the relationship between Sisi and Dahlan dates to when he worked in Egyptian intelligence.
Abu Ein rejected this assessment, however, saying that Sisi recognizes Abbas alone as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian Authority, even if he and his intelligence services have had close ties to Dahlan.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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