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Dahlan's final days "not here yet" says PA

With Dahlan's stay in Cairo shrouded in secrecy, his inner circle keeps its distance out of fear of retribution by the PA

Ahmed Eleiba, Wednesday 19 Jan 2011

Amid an atmosphere of silence and secrecy, Mohamed Dahlan, whose membership in Fatah’s Central Committee has been frozen, arrived in Cairo a week ago. A Fatah investigation committee asked him to temporarily leave Ramallah while a probe of his allies in all branches of the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues.

The secrecy seems to imply that Dahlan, chairman of the group’s media committee, had no one left to defend him -- especially since his friends and close allies fear retaliation by the PA and its chairman, President Mahmoud Abbas.

Sources in Cairo told Ahram Online that Dahlan could not make any media statements before the investigation is concluded.

The government, which has mediated the issue since the beginning, would also prefer silence as it wants to see the dispute contained in order to maintain the integrity of Fatah -- not to protect Dahlan whom it does not support. In fact, Dahlan found it very difficult to meet with Egypt’s National Security chief Omar Suleiman before he left Cairo.

When the meeting eventually took place -- two hours before Dahlan headed back to Ramallah – the results were not very promising, although he reportedly was keen on maintaining his composure.

Dahlan, who then remained in Ramallah for almost two weeks, was officially accused of affronting Fatah, Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Abbas's family.

Investigations later expanded to include other accusations which were uncovered by the Palestinian and international media, quoting Fatah leaders saying that Dahlan was seeking to overthrow Abbas by bribing officials in the president’s office and forming “death squads” to carry out the coup.

Israeli media followed suit and began reporting on the dispute, declaring that Abbas is in possession of an audio tape in which Dahlan stated that Abbas was unfit to lead the Palestinian people or be at the helm of the PA.

Furthermore, Dahlan reportedly claimed that he was Abbas’s kingmaker and responsible for his protection while he travelled the world to initiate “business” connections for his sons.

Thus far, Dahlan hasn't denied these reports, but has said that “the matter has now extended beyond the issue of the president’s sons”, indicating that his taped statements were investigated.

Although Dahlan has asserted that there is “no case” against him, news reports indicate that Abu Mazen has cleared the circle around Dahlan -- whether in Fatah’s Media Committee, the Central Committee or the Revolutionary Council and even in the preventive security apparatus which Dahlan headed until the 2007 Gaza coup.

The probe expanded its scope to look into “Dahlan’s unexplained wealth” and his connection and level of ties with Western intelligence agencies in both Europe and the US.

According to an Arab diplomat in Cairo, who is carefully following the developments, Dahlan met with US Ambassador to Cairo Margaret Scobey before he left for Ramallah but “she did not do anything for him,” according to the source.

Dahlan is also accused of being responsible for a number of assassinations in the ranks of the PA and its apparatus, such as the death of Major General Moussa Arafat, the former chief of military intelligence, in 2005; Khalil Al-Zobon, the adviser to late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, who was killed in 2004; and Hisham Mekki, the director of Palestinian Television and Radio, who died in 2001.

Dahlan denied culpability in these assassinations, but his denial was not extensively reported in the media. It has become apparent that accusations against Dahlan mount whenever his supporters threaten to stir up trouble.

For the time being, Hamas is pleased with the progression of events thus far – especially since Dahlan is considered an archenemy.  Hamas's disdain for Dahlan was evident when they refused him entry into Gaza to attend his mother’s funeral last year. Alternatively, the group’s leadership in Damascus and Gaza permitted members of Fatah to attend the funeral of Abu Mazen’s brother two weeks ago.

Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a leading figure in Hamas, told Ahram Online that “even if Dahlan is ever allowed back into Gaza, the families of his victims would not allow him to live long… [he must] first pay the price for the blood he spilled.”

Dahlan served as national security adviser to Abbas before Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, after which he resigned. He also served as minister of internal security in the first Palestinian cabinet formed by Abbas in 2003, as well as chief of preventive security in the Gaza Strip since the PA's creation, in 1994, until 2003.

Dahlan appears to only have one choice for the time being: namely to abandon his ambitions for power and make do with what he has achieved. According to Fatah officials, he has collected a reasonable amount of documents to defend himself and implicate Fatah officials and leaders -- within the circles of power -- in corruption cases.

The ongoing probe, however, is being done by Fatah not the Palestinian judiciary which has been looking at similar cases, explained former Palestinian ambassador Makram Younes.

Younes told Ahram Online that even if Dahlan holds his tongue, these will not be his final days nor the end of the corruption scandal within the PA.

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