Top Israeli minister met with Abbas rival Dahlan

Netanyahu has assured PA president that he did not sanction meetings with banished Fatah strongman, sources say

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 Mohammed Dahlan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
In this January 3, 2011 photo, Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

A senior Israeli minister held several meetings recently with the ostracized former Palestinian Authority official Muhammad Dahlan, a bitter rival of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli sources, and Palestinian sources close to Abbas, have revealed to The Times of Israel.

The meetings between Dahlan and the unnamed minister took place in at least two European capitals, the sources said.

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. He has a powerful friend in Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

When Abbas got wind of the meetings, the PA contacted senior Israeli officials to ascertain whether they were authorized by the Israeli government and were a reflection of its policy, the sources said.

In response, Netanyahu informed Abbas that he had not authorized the meetings, and that the Israeli government was opposed to them, the sources said.

Netanyahu’s response was conveyed through Yoram Cohen, the head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, during a meeting with Abbas in Ramallah on November 26.

The Israeli minister’s office vehemently denied that he had met with Dahlan, a denial echoed by the former Palestinian official.

Dahlan told The Times of Israel that false information had been leaked regarding the alleged meeting by Israeli politicians, who intended to make hay out of the news ahead of March’s Knesset elections.

Both the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Shin Bet declined to comment.

Dahlan on Saturday announced that he’d form a united front in opposition to Abbas following the latter’s failed statehood bid at the UN Security Council.

Dahlan told Sky News Arabic in an interview that the latest Palestinian diplomatic effort at the United Nations spearheaded by Abbas was “a disaster” and said that Palestinian governmental institutions were not involved in the decision-making process.

“Most of the Palestinian people oppose the proposal that [Abbas] put forward” at the Security Council, Dahlan said. “This was a hasty and reckless decision that wasn’t made with the unified consensus of the Palestinians.

“The proposal was changed a number of times without consultation of the decision makers. This was a decision that constitutes a new disaster for relations with Israel which will bring shame and destruction of the Palestinian issue.”

The Security Council on Tuesday voted down the resolution, which called for the recognition of Palestinian statehood and the withdrawal of Israeli forces by the end of 2017.

In June 2011 Dahlan was expelled from Fatah’s ruling body and also lost his parliamentary immunity following allegations of financial corruption and murder.

Last May, a West Bank court sentenced Dahlan, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, to two years in jail — effectively barring him from ever running in general or presidential elections.

AFP contributed to this report.

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