Hamas and Abbas rival discuss forming joint Gaza government

Hamas and Abbas rival discuss forming joint Gaza government

Hamas officials meet in Cairo with loyalists of deposed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Ismail Haniyeh, left, smiles as he celebrates with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza City on Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo,File)
Ismail Haniyeh, left, smiles as he celebrates with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza City on Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo,File)

Hamas is not ruling out the possibility of forming a “national salvation” government with deposed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who is an archenemy of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a Hamas official was quoted on Thursday as saying.

A senior Hamas delegation headed by Ismail Haniyeh met in Cairo recently with representatives of Dahlan and discussed possible collaboration efforts.

It was unclear whether the Hamas officials had also met with the Egyptian-backed Dahlan personally.

The delegation, which also held intensive discussions with Egyptian government officials in the past three weeks, returned to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

The discussions focused on ways to end the ongoing dispute between Hamas and Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, as well as what many are calling a humanitarian crisis inside the Gaza Strip and security issues related to Egypt’s war against jihadists in Sinai.

Upon their return to the Gaza Strip, the Hamas officials said their talks in Egypt were “successful,” but did not provide further details.

This was not the first time that Hamas and Dahlan had discussed the possibility of working together in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, center right, speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, January 14, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

Last year, the two sides were said to have reached an agreement that would allow Dahlan to play a role in a new administration in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan, who lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates, enjoys the financial and political backing of Egypt and several other Arab countries.

The Hamas-Dahlan agreement was foiled by Abbas’s sudden decision to sign a “reconciliation” accord with Hamas in Cairo last November. That deal, which would have seen the PA assume control of the enclave, has since been stalled.

Hamas is hoping that an alliance with Dahlan would persuade some Arab countries to provide financial aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Hamas sees Dahlan’s inclusion as a way to improve the terror group’s relations with Egypt.

Ahmed Yusef, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said Dahlan’s representatives presented the Hamas delegation with ideas for managing the affairs of the Gaza Strip.

The meeting between the Hamas delegation and Dahlan’s men “cleared things up,” Yusef said in an interview with the Al Watan Voice website. Dahlan’s representatives, he added, presented ideas for administering the Gaza Strip and expressed readiness to improve the political situation and living conditions there.

“Dahlan talked about the formation of a national salvation government or a general framework for improving the situation in the Gaza Strip,” the Hamas official said. “Hamas has accepted the idea, especially because we see that the (Palestinian Authority) government is not interested in solving the problems of the Gaza Strip.”

Yusef predicted that if the situation continues to deteriorate in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Dahlan would form a “national salvation government.”

Hamas, he said, has “given President Mahmoud Abbas and his government enough time to take matters into their hands and assume their responsibilities towards the Gaza Strip. However, everything is on its way to collapsing unless something is done to save the situation.”

Yusef said that Hamas has no interest in holding Dahlan accountable for his past ties with Israel. “Dahlan was a political rival, but now he’s a friend seeking to build bridges with Hamas,” he explained.

Dahlan has been working to remove obstacles preventing improved relations between Hamas and Egypt, the Hamas official revealed.

Earlier this week, Dahlan, a former PA security commander in the Gaza Strip, launched a scathing attack on the PA leadership in Ramallah, holding it responsible for the continued crisis in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan’s remarks were made during an interview with the Egyptian television channel TEN.

During the interview, Dahlan renewed his call for forming a “national salvation|” government in the Gaza Strip and described the Palestinian political landscape as “catastrophic.”

Some Palestinian political analysts placed the interview with Dahlan in the context of Egypt’s effort to promote the Fatah strongman and pave the way for him to play a role in the administration of the Gaza Strip.

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