Ab­bas foe con­spires with Ha­mas to rule Gaza Strip

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG

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.

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