UAE funnels funds to Gaza through Abbas rival, miffing PA

Mohammed Dahlan, considered a powerful potential challenger to PA president, has been courting 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.

A photograph taken of a meeting attended by senior members of Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad that was held in the United Arab Emirates, around the end of 2014.
A photograph taken of a meeting attended by senior members of Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad that was held in the United Arab Emirates, around the end of 2014.

Mohammed Dahlan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud’s Abbas’s main political rival, has been working together with Hamas to funnel funds from the United Arab Emirates to the families of Palestinians hurt or killed during the war in Gaza last summer, The Times of Israel has learned.

This photo above, snapped in the UAE recently and obtained by the Times of Israel, shows Dahlan and two fellow Fatah members, decades-old arch-enemies of Hamas who were deported from Gaza, standing alongside senior members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Beside them is a UAE prince, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed.

Among those present are Hamas leaders Salah Bardawil, Jamal Abu Hashem, Ruhi Mushtaha, the Islamic Jihad’s Khaled al-Batsh, as well Majid Abu Shimala and Ashraf Juma, both close acquaintances of Dahlan from Fatah.

This picture is not coincidental. For months, Dahlan’s men have been working alongside members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, transferring aid to needy families and, as a result of the summer conflict, also to the families of those wounded and killed. Naturally, that includes Hamas members as well.

This aid was granted as part of the “National Islamic Committee for Social Solidarity,” which convenes every so often in Gaza and distributes funds to the needy. According to documents and declarations from members of the commission, the funding comes entirely from the UAE, which is ostensibly an Arab state hostile to Hamas, close to Egypt, and working to bring down the Muslim Brotherhood. But based on information obtained by The Times of Israel, a more complex picture emerges: UAE has been transferring large sums of money to Dahlan, who has been passing it on to the committee, in part to boost Dahlan’s standing in the Gaza Strip.

Dahlan has made connections to Hamas members in Gaza, primarily to forge an alliance against Abbas.

In this way, the money for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is passed under the watchful eyes of Dahlan’s men on the one hand, and Hamas on the other. For example, among those present in a committee meeting on December 16 were Salah Bardawil and Ismail Al Shaker from Hamas, al-Batsh from the Islamic Jihad, along with Abu Shimala and Juma, both Dahlan’s men.

Based on the minutes of the meeting, the committee decided that all those seriously injured in the war would receive $1,500 in compensation, moderately wounded $700, and lightly wounded $500. These sums are high relative to the standard of living and the average income in Gaza. The committee also hands out $5,000 to bereaved families of the summer conflict.

The minutes of another meeting of the committee from the beginning of last year reflect the disputes between its members. For example, Ismail al-Ashkar of Hamas asked why the committee only received $130,000 when the UAE pledged $250,000. Abu Shimala responded to al-Ashkar and explained to him that since a wave of arrests of Fatah members by Hamas security forces in Gaza, the remaining $120,000 was transferred to the West Bank instead. Al-Ashkar fumed, and subsequently left the meeting. But the two later resolved the spat. Abu Shimala also reported that $1.2 million was transferred for assistance for Palestinians harmed by inclement weather.

The PA has been monitoring with concern the cooperation between Dahlan and Hamas, but has been even more disconcerted by the apparent willingness of the UAE to back Abbas’s rival.

Palestinian sources expressed surprise that the UAE has been transferring large sums to Dahlan, despite being aware of the fact that he does not hold an official position in Gaza or the West Bank, and that the money also reaches Hamas.

The officials were also outraged that the UAE was cooperating with Dahlan’s wife, Jalila, and that she was personally distributing aid in the Gaza Strip. The PA sources said that the ties between Dahlan and Egypt and Dahlan and Israel were similarly surprising. On the one hand, Cairo has declared war on Hamas, while ignoring Dahlan’s ties to the organization. And on the other, Israel is allowing Dahlan’s representatives to move freely from the West Bank to Gaza and back with full knowledge of their activities.

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