Abbas foe conspires with Hamas to rule Gaza Strip
THE LEAKING of a secret but unconfirmed document has revealed that former Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan and Hamas, with the support of Egypt, are conspiring to outmanoeuvre Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for control of the Gaza Strip.
The paper, titled A National Consensus Document for Trust-Building, details an agreement allegedly made between the Hamas movement, led by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, and Dahlan during recent Egyptian-sponsored talks when Palestinian officials established a political front to challenge the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority in co-ordination with Dahlan, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.
Hamas and the PA have been involved in a power struggle for control of the Gaza Strip, which is under a tight Egyptian-Israeli blockade. According to the unverified document, Dahlan could be appointed head of Gaza’s government as a result of the Cairo talks, while Hamas, for its part, would retain control of the powerful Interior of the Ministry, under which security falls.
The document contains 15 articles focused on concerns around Palestinian reconciliation, including articles aiming to resolve issues of revenge or compensation that have arisen during Hamas and Fatah’s more than decade-long feud.
Dahlan was a former high-ranking leader of Fatah in Gaza before he fled to the PA-controlled West Bank after Hamas’s military overthrow of the joint PA-Hamas unity government in Gaza in 2007.
The Hamas coup pre-empted a planned coup by Dahlan and Fatah, supported by Israel and the US, to take full control of Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections.
After fleeing to the West Bank, nominally ruled by the PA but under Israeli occupation, Dahlan worked consistently to undermine Abbas politically and for control of Fatah.
However, he was forced to flee to neighbouring Jordan after he was kicked out of Fatah and shortly before Palestinian security forces tried to arrest him for corruption.
In exile the former Fatah strongman has continued to agitate against Abbas, who is also leader of the PA, and the bitter feud between the two has continued to escalate.
Now their dispute has become part of Abbas’s power struggle with Hamas for control of Gaza, the Palestinian street and the Palestinian narrative.
In an effort to pressure Hamas over the past few months, Abbas has reduced payments to Gaza public servants, cut electricity supplies to the besieged coastal territory in co-ordination with the Israelis, ceased sending medical supplies and baby formula, and prevented patients from leaving Gaza for urgent medical treatment.
The PA has delayed issuing payment vouchers for more than 1 600 patients from Gaza, including some with cancer and heart disease, and children who need treatments unavailable in Gaza.
That Dahlan, former enemy number one of Hamas, should now be working conspiratorially with the Islamist group with the support of the Egyptians to sideline Abbas, shows just how fickle Palestinian political partners can be.
This unlikely alliance, analysts point out, is more about their mutual distrust of Abbas and rejection of the PA than a meeting of minds. Fatah is far more secular than Hamas and has a different approach to the liberation struggle against the Israeli occupation.
However, as the inter, and intra, political party infighting continues, and Abbas’s popularity continues to slide, the internationally-backed PA is not giving up without a fight.
PA security forces continue to arrest political opponents and critics of Abbas and the PA.
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, left, and discharged Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan.