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Analysis

Abbas’s rivalry with ascendent Dahlan heats up in Gaza

PA withholds salaries from loyalists of expelled security chief, who has seen a surge of support from Hamas

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

In this January 3, 2011 photo, Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
In this January 3, 2011 photo, Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

The economic situation in Gaza has been deepening in recent days and with it the conflict between supporters of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and backers of former Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan.

Amid escalating tensions between the two men, the PA has decided to withhold the salaries of some 200 of its Gaza employees who are known as Dahlan loyalists.

In response, Dahlan stalwarts published the names of around 100 PA officers in Gaza whom they accused of informing for the PA security forces in Ramallah. Meanwhile, a car belonging to one of the PA officers was torched.

Dahlan, a longtime opponent of Abbas who was expelled from Abbas’s Fatah party in 2011, is considered a legitimate contender by some Palestinians and PLO leaders to replace the president, who’s been in power since 2005.

He once held the internal security portfolio and headed the powerful security forces in the Gaza Strip, but fell from grace in June 2007 when Hamas drove Fatah from Gaza after days of fierce street battles.

Hamas, which alone holds sway in Gaza — despite a nominal power-sharing agreement with Abbas’s Fatah – has sided with Dahlan, publishing a statement supporting the 200 unpaid civil servants.

A Fatah source accused Dahlan’s loyalists of sending anonymous, threatening text messages to 2,000 Fatah men in the Gaza Strip.

The withholding of salaries from PA workers linked to Dahlan was all the more conspicuous in light of the fact that Ramallah was only able to pay its other workers 60 percent of their salaries, after Israel withheld Palestinian tax revenues.

The delaying of Palestinian funds by Jerusalem was a punitive move in response to Abbas’s application to join the International Criminal Court and sue Israel for alleged war crimes.

Increased cooperation between Hamas and Dahlan in recent months has corresponded with the steady unraveling of the Hamas-Fatah unity deal, and has seen Hamas cooperate with Dahlan’s loyalists in organizing a rally against Abbas.

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