Dahlan’s grand plans for Gaza’s revival threaten to sideline Abbas

PA chief fumes at Cairo’s apparent support for his rival’s talks with Hamas, which have spoiled Abbas’s efforts to pressure terror group into submission

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, meets Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2014 (AP Photo/Ahmed Foad, MENA)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, meets Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2014 (AP Photo/Ahmed Foad, MENA)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is expected to sit down on Sunday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for a meeting that is being described as critical to the future relations of the two sides.

There have been numerous reports in the Arab and Palestinian media recently about meetings being held in Egypt between Abbas’s political rival, Mohammad Dahlan, and the leaders of Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas. These allegedly took place in Cairo under the close supervision of the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Khaled Fawzy.

Dahlan and Hamas reportedly agreed to establish a new “management committee” of Gaza, which would see the Fatah strongman share control of the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas will likely demand explanations from Sissi as to the nature of these contacts, and Egypt’s support of them.

The PA chief and his allies have been flooded with rumors about a deal being concocted behind the back of the Palestinian Authority, under the auspices of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. These talks are seen by Abbas as insulting, even a spit in the face. Abbas will want to know whether Fawzy’s reported actions were authorized by Sissi.

Abbas was also surprised by the timing of Egyptian mediation, just as he was attempting to pressure Hamas into rescinding its control over the Strip by cutting wages and electricity in Gaza. The Palestinian president was astonished that at the height of such a dramatic move to subdue Hamas, the Egyptians — once perceived as his allies — presented the terrorist group with a lifeline in the form of Dahlan.

Dahlan is a former Fatah leader in Gaza once considered persona non grata by Hamas. He was ousted from the Strip in the coup that put the Islamist terror group in power 10 years ago.

However he recently helped broker a deal with Egypt to try to resolve Gaza’s electricity crisis and is now looking to assume a far larger role in the governance of the Palestinian enclave.

Dahlan’s proposal to Hamas, some details of which are revealed here for the first time, is no less than revolutionary: It calls for a power plant to be built on Egypt’s border with Gaza that will supply electricity to the entire Strip, at an investment of $150 million; it stipulates that the Rafah Crossing will be opened for the passage of goods from Egypt into the Strip; and it specifies that a new independent energy authority will be established in Gaza, which will charge residents for electricity they receive and assure the Strip’s energy independence.

These are just some of the tempting proposals Dahlan and his men presented to senior Hamas figures who met with them in Cairo.

Mohammed Dahlan, left, speaks at the European Parliament, December 3, 2013 (photo credit: courtesy/Fernando Vaz das Neves)

Mohammed Dahlan, left, speaks at the European Parliament, December 3, 2013 (photo credit: courtesy/Fernando Vaz das Neves)

According to the proposal, Hamas will remain responsible for Gaza’s internal security. It will not be required to disarm but will be asked to deal only with internal matters. Dahlan and his associates will be responsible for handling the Strip’s foreign affairs — with Egypt and with the international community in general.

The package that Dahlan is offering is meant to achieve several goals that will serve the interests of all parties — except perhaps those of the PA and Fatah in the West Bank.

If Hamas accepts Dahlan’s plan, the Strip’s economy will gain a substantial boost. A new power plant would provide residents with electricity all day, every day. Residents would be able to leave the Strip through the Egyptian border. Additionally, a free flow of goods would significantly lower prices.

As for the interests of Egypt and the UAE, the deal would distance Hamas from Qatar and move it closer to the moderate Sunni axis. The new power station would be financed by the UAE and operated by Egypt. This, runs the theory, would encourage Hamas to be more disciplined and docile.

In this June 4, 2017, photo, a father and his children ride their donkey cart past the idled Gaza power plant at Nusseirat, in the central Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In this June 4, 2017, photo, a father and his children ride their donkey cart past the idled Gaza power plant at Nusseirat, in the central Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

If the plan is enacted, Dahlan would once again find himself in the center of the Gazan political arena, and would likely be regarded as the great savior of the Strip.

Hamas, meanwhile, has faced a deteriorating economic situation and the danger of an escalation with Israel or the beginning of an internal uprising. The deal would bring stability and secure the group’s continued rule over Gaza for the coming years.

Hamas would, however, be paying a price in the loss of some independence. The opening of the Rafah Crossing will be dependent on the establishment of a new, independent body that will be responsible for the management of the site on the Palestinian side. The Egyptians are not interested in booting Abbas from this arrangement. According to Palestinian sources, Cairo hopes the meetings between Dahlan and Hamas will pressure Abbas to reconcile with his rivals.

But Abbas is right to be concerned. The Egyptians seem to want to crown Dahlan as his unofficial heir, and are willing to go to great lengths to achieve this. It is not clear why the Egyptians favor Dahlan so enthusiastically, though it may well be his unique potential to weaken Hamas’s grip on Gaza.

And herein lies the main problem with Dahlan’s proposal — at this stage it is only supported by the Hamas leadership in Gaza, not the Hamas kingpins elsewhere.

Many senior officials outside Gaza fear Dahlan will do to Hamas what Sissi did as army chief to then-president Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in the summer of 2013 — initiate a coup and remove Hamas from power. Dahlan, according to senior members of the organization based in Qatar, Lebanon and the West Bank, was and remains hostile to Hamas, with which he shares a long and bloody history.

It should be noted that Dahlan does have a plan on how to end this blood feud, which dates back to Hamas’s takeover of the Strip in 2007. Dahlan is promoting a reconciliation committee to provide compensation to the families of the victims of the internal power struggle, similar to the tribal customs of the Bedouin. The funding for such stipends would also come from the UAE — $50 million that would hopefully help grease the wheels of reconciliation.

And so in the coming days and months it seems likely the Hamas leadership will continue to debate whether to accept the proposal. During this time the reconciliation committee will complete its plan for compensation for those affected by the 2007 coup; Samir Mashrawi, a close associate of Dahlan, is expected to return to the Strip; and the Rafah Crossing will be reopened.

And perhaps, Abbas will give in to the pressure exerted on him by Egypt and make peace, reluctantly, with Dahlan.

***

The Dahlan Plan: Without Hamas and Without Abbas

True, the plan leaves Hamas in control of security and doesn’t demilitarize it, but in Mohammed Dahlan, Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation

By Zvi Bar’el, HAARETZ  June/17

While Israel counts the meager hours of electricity allocated each day to Gaza’s 2 million people, a complex arrangement is being cooked up between the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Gaza and Jerusalem. The purpose is to make Mohammed Dahlan, a political rival of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, government chief in Gaza, lift most of the closure imposed on the Strip by Egypt and Israel, build a new power station in Egyptian Rafah funded by the UAE, and later build a port.

If this political experiment succeeds, Abbas will be pushed into a dark corner and Dahlan will act to take his place, either by elections or de facto recognition of his leadership. Egypt is already sending diesel fuel to Gaza at market prices, but without the taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority.

The UAE has earmarked $150 million to build a power station, and Egypt will soon gradually open the Rafah crossing to people and goods.

It’s still too early to assess whether this plan will be fully implemented, and if Hamas will agree to place Dahlan at the head of the Gaza government, a step that could all but sever Gaza from the West Bank, especially given the long feud between Abbas and Dahlan. On the other hand, if the plan does come to fruition, it could make an Israeli-Egyptian dream come true.

For Egypt, the plan holds the promise of an end to Hamas’ cooperation with terror groups in Sinai, and it would give Egypt a way out of the closure it has imposed on Gaza and the possibility of opening the Gaza market to Egyptian goods. For Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the plan’s key is the appointment of Dahlan, who is close to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, as head of the “state of Gaza.”

If the appointment is made, it will ensure a split between Gaza and the West Bank that will make it very difficult to negotiate over the future of the territories. But contrary to the situation now, Israel will have a legitimate partner in Gaza. The lifting of the closure, which would no longer mean much after Egypt opened the Rafah crossing, would give Israel another diplomatic dividend that could reduce international pressure, especially by the United States and even if only partially, for Israel to move ahead on negotiations.

Thus, with all due caution, we can say that if the plan is implemented, it will ensure a fine profit for all sides, except for Abbas and Palestinian aspirations to establish a state. True, the plan leaves Hamas in control of security and doesn’t demilitarize it, but Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation with Israel. Qatari and Turkish involvement would be neutralized in the Strip, while Egypt and the UAE, Israel’s new friend, would shore up the agreement if breached.

Anyone who supports “the economy first” as a way around a diplomatic solution, like Netanyahu, Lieberman and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, should embrace this agreement. But so far, not a peep has been heard from Israel. The government, which has already learned from the electricity crisis that it can’t evade responsibility for the Strip, is held captive by the failed concept that what’s good for Hamas is bad for Israel, and what helps Gazans strengthens Hamas. Israel would rather prepare for the next violent clash in the summer, just as long as it doesn’t have to initiate anything or be seen as letting Hamas rule, even though Israel long ago recognized Hamas’ control in Gaza as an advantage.

According to the plan, Israel wouldn’t even have to recognize the new government that would be established in Gaza, and so it wouldn’t have to appear concerned over Abbas’ standing. After exactly 10 years, a fifth of the entire period of the occupation, Gaza has been under closure. Now there might be a chance to change the concept and try a new strategy in which Gazans will be the most important thing, not the status of the Hamas leadership or Israel’s prestige.

 

July 9, 2017 | 2 Comments » | 162 views

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2 Comments / 2 Comments

  1. It gives Gaza energy independence. From Israel. In exchange for nothing. But smiles and handshakes for the cameras. As usual.
    Is the rest not just more smoke and mirrors?

    [Sound of masses cheering and fade to blackout]

  2. [The “revolutionary” plan states that] a new independent energy authority will be established in Gaza, which will charge residents for electricity they receive ..

    More government is “revolutionary”?!

    Wow.

    Stalin would be so proud.

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