The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged dahlan
Our No-Man-But-His-Own-Man in Ramallah

Youth organizer turned leg-breaker, charity worker turned embezzler, and nationalist propagandist turned bargaining chip for foreign aid donors.

All three of these descriptions fit just one person: Mohammad Dahlan

As we enter another round of "did they resign or didn't they?" for the Palestinian negotiating team led by Saeb Erekat, for sheer chutzpah, this has to take the cake: Daoud Kattab reports that Dahlan, formerly Fatah's enforcer-in-chief in Gaza (emphasis on "former" - more on that below) may yet return to the fold of the party that he was expelled from in 2010

Reportedly, his reintegration into Fatah is being accomplished by the promise of Emirati foreign assistance to the PNA: Dahlan's exile saw him take up an advisory position to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, and this is his vehicle for returning to political life in the Territories, not unlike how American aid was his vehicle for the abortive 2007 operation to disarm Hamas before it could consolidate military control over the strip. 

Absent from this account of Dahlan's coming in from the cold, though, is one important detail about Dahlan's career, perhaps the most important one. In the institutionalization of internal Palestinian political violence, Dahlan has a strong claim to be first among equals for his actions in Gaza after Oslo. But he is the former enforcer-in-chief in Gaza precisely because his attempt to force a confrontation with Hamas after it won the 2006 elections there backfired. Even though his efforts were backed by the US, Fatah's paramilitaries and party officials were unable to implement their plan properly, and Hamas took the initiative, meting out violence to Fatah and the Palestinian Authority's Preventive Security Service (PSS) equal to that inflicted upon their own cadres by Dahlan's forces. 

It was also a decade-old payback for his efforts against Hamas's offices and guerrilla cells in the mid '90s. The PSS moved against the group in the wake of a string of bus bombings around Tel Aviv, arresting hundreds of suspects before this crackdown became politically unpopular. Though Hamas had by 2007 almost given up on suicide bombings for strategic reasons, that still did not lessen their hatred of the security chief in the coastal enclave - which was compounded by the torture his men had allegedly carried out against Hamas members since 1994. 

The most surprising thing is that Dahlan still retains a loyal following among Fatah, even after all of the accusations of torture, profiteering, and sucking up to the US and Israel.

Or rather, it would be surprising, were Fatah's security services not part of an entity, the PNA, which depends on a perpetual peace process to pay the bills. Dahlan's partially successful campaign against Hamas' suicide bombers after 1995 pales against the other possible reasons Fatah members have for backing him: his connections, his political acumen (with the exception of the events of June 2007...) and his ability to deliver the goods to his subordinates. 

And of course, when claims of collaboration with Israel, murder, and graft can be brought against other members of Fatah by Dahlan himself, these accusations are hardly an impediment to his political advancement. It was only the former security chief's failure in Gaza that gave his rivals the chance to throw him from the train.

Dahlan's career trajectory does not suggest he is using the Emirati connection for purely patriotic reasons. It also, however, does not suggest he is so weak-willed that he has been bought and paid for by a foreign patron, and that he is no longer his own man. Because Dahlan is, in the end, his own man, and has been at least since the 1990s when he began maneuvering to supplant the aging Yasser Arafat. Dahlan obviously recognized at that time that his future was best secured by keeping the peace with Israel, rather than identifying with the Islamist upstarts in Hamas and their eliminationism.

Dahlan is a man who saw his opportunities and took them. Unlike Mahmoud Abbas, he is more willing to get his hands dirty to "keep the peace," and to take a stronger public stance against Israeli stalling tactics - that, along with his military experience, is reason enough for Abbas to want him in permanent exile. But now, economic desperation and political stagnation are Dahlan's foot in the door.

It has been a long fall for someone who was once called "The Man Who Could Be Arafat." But it is indicative of the kind of leadership qualities that are increasingly called for in the West Bank if the peace process is to be kept going on international life support.


Elliott Abrams has a blog, disses Dahlan

Abrams — the former Bush administration Middle East supremo widely credited for backing Muhammad Dahlan's coup attempt against Hamas that led to the Palestinian split — is shocked, shocked, that Dahlan is being accused of fomenting a coup against Mahmoud Abbas. But he also doesn't like his former Palestinian partner:

People like Dahlan and other former Arafat cronies, raised with the corruption and disarray of Arafat’s satrapy, have no role and no future in the PA. 

But what is it all about for Mr Abrams? That Palestinians are simply not ready to have their own state, of course.

Abrams now spends much of his time being Mr Democracy Promotion and lamenting the bad ways of the Obama administration. So where was he in 2006, when it suddenly became inconvenient to promote democracy in Palestine, Egypt and elsewhere?

Links for 11.09.09 to 11.12.09
Report: Angelina Jolie planning to adopt child from Syria - Haaretz - Israel News | Jolie and Pitt thinking of adopting an Iraqi refugee baby in Syria. They also met with Bashar and his wife, apparently. United Colors of Adoption... this will cause a stir.
Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over? - The New York Review of Books | Malley & Agha's latest, in which they criticize the two-state solution, criticize alternatives to it (notably one-state), and sketch out the alternative: a hudna, a long-term interim truce while work on fundamental questions is carried out. Not entirely convincing, too vague at times, but there's something interesting there nonetheless. I wish they could be more straightforward.
UN: Gaza needs construction material before winter - Yahoo! News | Even greater humanitarian crisis looming.
Palestinian borders could solve settlements row: Fatah - Yahoo! News | Muhammad Dahlan picks up Daniel Levy's line about deciding on borders. Worrying.
Israeli flights over Lebanon break resolution: UN - Yahoo! News | "UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – All Israeli military flights over Lebanon break a resolution aimed at ending the 2006 hostilities between the two neighbors, a UN envoy said Tuesday." So let's have the UN set up air defenses, then!
Abbas slams Israel on settlements at mass Arafat rally - Yahoo! News | Funny pic of Abbas alongside this story. Well he's shown he can have some balls, at least, and highlight the dismal failure of the Israelis and Americans on the settlement question.
Israel mulls draft refugee law - Yahoo! News | "JERUSALEM (AFP) – A draft law stipulating that any Middle East peace treaty must mention compensation for Jews forced to leave Arab states has passed a preliminary reading in the Israeli parliament, a spokesman said on Wednesday."
Gaza, Gilad Shalit, Hamas, and Israel : The New Yorker | Somewhat flawed piece by Lawrence Wright, but nice descriptions of the misery of Gaza. Too much Gilad Shalit for my taste.
Arab Reform Bulletin - Brotherhood Faces Leadership Challenge | Ibrahim al-Hudaiby about the MB's internal dispute and its need to institutionalize decision-making.
Memo From Riyadh - Influence of Egypt and Saudi Arabia Fades - | An interesting story on Egypt and Saudi Arabia's dwindling relative power to influence regional affairs. Except I would not put Cairo and Riyadh in the same basket: Egypt is in absolute decline, Saudi in relative decline. Also interesting stuff on differences between the two on how to handle Syria.
6 Guantanamo detainees resettle in Palau Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | The absurdities of the war on terror: "KOROR, Palau (AP) - Six Chinese Muslims released from Guantanamo Bay but still wanted at home as separatists arrived Sunday on their new tropical island home of Palau after the tiny Pacific nation agreed to a U.S. request to resettle the men."
Géopolitique des médias arabes (1/2) : Rotana, mondialisation et normalisation | Culture et politique arabes | First post in a series of the geopolitics of Arab media. This one largely focuses on Kingdom Holdings and Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal.
الرئيس جمال عبد الناصر، الصفحة الرئيسية | Gamal Abdel Nasser archives at the Alexandria Library.
In Turkey, fertile ground for creationism - | On Islamist creationists in Turkey.
Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Obituary Amin Howeidi (1921-2009) Vexed, not villainous | Gamal Nkrumah's obituary of former Egyptian spy chief Amin Howeidy.
Links for 08.20.09
En Egypte, l'hébreu, in cha' Allah! | Very interesting feature on Hebrew call center in Cairo, doing Microsoft Windows activation for Israelis and the reactions its customers get ("You khare khegyptian and you speak khebrew?") [French]
Mohammad Dahlan (MohammadDahlan) on Twitter | Another funny fake: "As'ad abukhalil LYING AGAIN. I stay n Cairo not bcuz I scared of my people but because I have medical condition & must eat KFC 4 every meal"
Abdelmonem Said - Road to Mideast Progress Runs Through Cairo - | Said, presenting the Egyptian govt view. Or one of its views.
» The Egypt we have Middle East Strategy at Harvard | Steve Cook and others think Hosni pwnd Barack: "a meeting that is notable for its general lack of newsworthiness."
US complains to Israel on Palestinian-American entry rules - Yahoo! News | Discrimination against Pal-Americans "unnaceptable."

Links for 08.16.09 to 08.17.09
U.S. group invests tax-free millions in East Jerusalem land - Haaretz - Israel News | Prosecute them: "American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, a nonprofit organization that sends millions of shekels worth of donations to Israel every year for clearly political purposes, such as buying Arab properties in East Jerusalem, is registered in the United States as an organization that funds educational institutes in Israel."
Palestinian state is not synonym for terrorist entity - Haaretz - Israel News | "The Jewish army's work in the territories we still call "Judea and Samaria" is done by non-Jews: Arab police, American instructors, European money. How has Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman put it? Paradise."
Al-Ahram Weekly | Region | Hamas faces Gelgelt | On links between the Salafist Jihadist group and "our son of a bitch" Muhammad Dahlan.
Is the Trans-Sahara Gas Pipeline a Viable Project? The Impact of Terrorism Risk - The Jamestown Foundation | To me this is a ridiculous idea but what do I know?
Al-Ahram Weekly | Culture | Tractatus Franco-Arabicus | A Wittgensteinian review of Sonallah Ibrahim's latest.