Exiled former Fatah party official Mohammad Dahlan took a swipe at his arch-rival Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, calling the latter a “failure” and charging that the elderly statesman’s approach toward peace negotiations with Israel had been utterly unsuccessful.
“No Palestinian in the past, present or future will be as easy with the Israelis as [Abbas],” Dahlan charged during an interview with the Washington Post published Saturday. He asserted that Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could afford to stall talks and continue their policies in the West Bank unabated because the current Palestinian leadership was weak and “compliant.”
If the Authority truly sought to advance the Palestinian cause, Dahlan continued, Abbas, 80, must end the “false game of negotiations” with the Jewish state, and suspend security coordination with the Israelis.
Dahlan was also critical of the White House, saying that President Barack Obama made “no real efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian people,” and protesting that American officials had not demanded that Israel stop settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Dahlan, a former security chief in Gaza who was expelled from Fatah by Abbas and forced into exile in the United Arab Emirates, has emerged as one of Abbas’s most significant political rivals, both in the Strip and in the West Bank. Massive funding from the Emirates funneled through Dahlan to impoverished Palestinians has helped his popularity, particularity among residents of Palestinian refugee camps across the West Bank and in Lebanon.
Two years ago, a Palestinian court convicted Dahlan in absentia of defamation and sentenced him to two years in prison. He risks being jailed if he returns to the West Bank. Dahlan, however, has repeatedly accused Abbas of using “political verdicts” against him.
Dahlan fell from grace in June 2007 after the humiliating rout of his forces by Hamas in week-long street battles that saw the Islamists expel Fatah from the Gaza Strip.
During Saturday’s interview, the former Fatah strongman said that Hamas’s takeover of the Strip did not help the Palestinians in reaching their goal of achieving statehood, and that the terrorist group’s continued attacks on Israel yield no real results. “They cannot show that their rockets are the solution,” he said.
Dahlan added that he opposed armed struggle against Israel, and said the current round of violence in the region was the product of hopelessness. Instead of attacking Israel, Dahlan argued, the Palestinian people should engage in acts of “resistance with minimal losses,” the Washington Post reported.
The exiled Palestinian leader has in the past been vocal in his call for the ouster of Abbas. Speaking with the Post, Dahlan said the “youth must be involved,” in Palestinian political affairs, and urged the Authority to hold new legislative elections as soon as possible.
“We must build an authority and strengthen it,” he concluded.
Avi Issacharoff and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.