Is Abbas Rival Mohammed Dahlan Plotting a Comeback, With the UAE’s Help?

Is Abbas Rival Mohammed Dahlan Plotting a Comeback, With the UAE’s Help?
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and then-Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Dec. 18, 2006 (AP photo by Kevin Frayer).

After the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke with most Arab countries and established diplomatic relations with Israel, there are already signs of growing tensions in the Palestinian territories. Mahmoud Abbas, the longtime president of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, is apparently trying to foreclose a potential challenge to his leadership from an old rival. Forces loyal to Abbas have been rounding up supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, once a powerful player in Abbas’ ruling Fatah party, who is now living in exile in the UAE. He and Abbas had a dramatic falling out nearly a decade ago.

According to the Democratic Reform Current, a faction within Fatah that is loyal to Dahlan, in recent days security forces have detained dozens of its members across the West Bank, from Jericho to Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority would not comment on them, but the arrests are the most tangible development in the swirl of intrigue that followed the August announcement that the UAE and Israel would bring their ties out into the open. Their agreement, along with Bahrain’s, dealt a crushing blow to the Palestinian strategy of relying on support from Arab states to deny Israel normalization until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

While the Arab League failed to condemn the trilateral Abraham Accords, as they were named by the Trump administration, Palestinians decried it all as a betrayal, primarily by the UAE. For Hamas, Fatah’s bitter rival, it was proof that Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority and has limited rule over the West Bank, is wrong in holding out for a negotiated solution with Israel. But the more intriguing reverberations have played out within Fatah, and they have centered on the possible role of Dahlan before and after the agreement was inked.

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