Fatah MP booted from party over perceived overtures to Abbas rival

PA president expels Jihad Tummaleh after parliamentarian hosts a ‘unity conference,’ inviting officials close to Mohammad Dahlan

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Former Fatah MP Jihad Tummaleh (Facebook)
Former Fatah MP Jihad Tummaleh (Facebook)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday expelled parliamentarian Jihad Tummaleh from his Fatah party, the PA’s official outlet Wafa reported.

Tummaleh won a seat in the Palestinian parliament in 2006 as a regional representative of Ramallah and El Bireh. On the regional list in the primary election, he was second only to the highly popular Marwan Barghouti, who is considered a possible successor to Abbas for the PA presidency, despite his incarceration in Israeli jail on multiple murder and terrorism convictions.

While Fatah has offered no explanation for the expulsion, the move followed a conference organized Saturday by Tummaleh in the al-Amari Refugee Camp, which is located in Ramallah, aimed at “party unity.” The event was perceived in some quarters as an effort to abate tensions with Abbas’s chief political rival Mohammad Dahlan.

The expulsion of Tummaleh was recommended by the “Tajannuh Committee” or Anti-Delinquency Committee, which has been used in the past to weaken Dahlan’s influence.

Tummaleh told the Palestinian news site Al Watan Voice that unity among all Fatah factions was essential before the party’s seventh general conference. During the general conference, which is slated to take place before the end of 2016, the party will decide on all of its major policy and internal issues.

File: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Mohammad Dahlan (left), leave a news conference in Egypt, in February 2007. (AP/Amr Nabil)
File: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) and Mohammad Dahlan (left), leave a news conference in Egypt, in February 2007. (AP/Amr Nabil)

According to Al Watan Voice, a number of the Fatah leaders who attended the conference are close to Dahlan. In 2015, Tummaleh told The Times of Israel “it is obvious that Dahlan has friendly connections here with people in the camp.”

Dahlan, who was one of the party’s most prominent members and is seen as another possible successor to Abbas, was kicked out of the Gaza Strip in 2011 after a feud with Abbas. The PA president has even hinted that Dahlan, who currently resides in the UAE but keeps strong ties back home, may have poisoned the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004.

Arab leaders — especially in the so-called Arab Quartet of Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia — have recently been pressuring Abbas to patch up differences within Fatah and make peace with Dahlan.

Abbas has so far been unwilling to welcome Dahlan back to the fold, and even uncharacteristically lashed out against “the [Arab] capitals]” in September, saying “no one will dictate to us any position or idea.”

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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