Israeli newspapers and Palestinian officials said that Mohamed Dahlan, a controversial Palestinian figure who serves as a special adviser to UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, has been the engineer of the United Arab Emirates normalization deal with Israel.
Nabil Sha’ath, a senior Fatah official and a special adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, affirmed that Dahlan played a role in “engineering” the deal.
“Mohammed Dahlan had aspirations of being the top leader in the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization].”
Mohamed Oweiss, a Palestinian-American political analyst with close contacts to both Palestinian and US officials, told Inside Arabia that “Mohammed Dahlan had aspirations of being the top leader in the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization].”
“But he was tried and sentenced in absentia to three years in prison in 2016 by the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Court for embezzling US$16 million from the PLO. He ran away to the United Arab Emirates, which along with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, support his quest to be the next leader of the Palestinians,” Oweiss explained.
“Dahlan got involved in the normalization process because he is the biggest beneficiary of this deal, as he is also favored by both Israelis and Americans to replace President Abbas,” Oweiss added.
Dahlan per Request
Last year, Dahlan played an important role in promoting President Trump’s “deal of the century” to eliminate the Palestinian issue through a US$50 billion investment plan, instead of a two-state solution.
For years, Dahlan facilitated several meetings between Emirati officials like National Security Advisor Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Israeli spy chief Yossi Cohen, and other Israeli officials hoping to return to the Palestinian political stage backed by Israel as well.
That’s because the Israelis want him to be their man, said Mohamed Dalbah, a Palestinian journalist and author of “60 Years of Deception: Fatah Movement from Leader Project to Elimination Project.” Dalbah has written extensively about the issue.
“Dahlan has a long history of cooperating with Israel and the CIA.”
“Dahlan has a long history of cooperating with Israel and the CIA. When he was imprisoned by Israel in the 80s, he was spying on fellow Palestinian prisoners for Israeli security agency Shin Bet,” Dalbah told Inside Arabia. “When he was released, he joined the PLO in Tunisia where he and his companion Jibril Rajoub were drafted by CIA field operations officer in Tunisia, Whitley Bruner.”
Dalbah said that after the Oslo Agreement of 1993, Israel and the CIA recommended both Dahlan and Rajoub as first commanders of the Palestinian Authority Preventive Security Force in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively. Both believed that security coordination with Israel was critical.
It was not a surprise to hear Dahlan’s defense of the normalization deal, as he was quoted saying, “The UAE will use its efforts to directly pressure the American administration and other parties to end the Israeli annexation plan completely and replace President Trump’s settlement plan with UN resolutions and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.”
But even before the US hosts the UAE and Israel to sign the deal in Washington, President Trump dashed such high hopes in his acceptance address at the Republican National Convention last week. He bragged about moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem as a united capital of Israel and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights; a blow to any attempt to apply the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which offered full normalization in return for complete withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.
Adding insult to injury, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the deal did not mean that annexation was off the table but that it was simply suspended for now.
As for the big personal prize—the possibility that the UAE and other countries may support Dahlan in his bid to replace the aging Palestinian president—it is very unlikely. Some Palestinian officials affirmed that if and when Dahlan returns to the West Bank, he would be tried for corruption.
Dalbah argues that while Dahlan’s bid to replace Abbas wouldn’t be easy, it is still possible. “We have to remember that the US and Israel had their own say when it comes to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. It was President George Bush who welcomed Mahmoud Abbas to Washington and not Yasser Arafat.”
Dalbah added that Bush at the time described Dahlan as “our boy.” He added that the wealth that Dahlan has acquired through deals in the UAE since 2007 has bought him some influence in Gaza where he’s gained followers of his so-called Democratic Reform Current. According to Dalbah, Dahlan has also used his money to buy the loyalty of a few leaders in the West Bank.
“For a majority of the Palestinian public, Dahlan is a paid Emirati agent who will never be accepted as a PA leader.”
According to Oweiss, however, for a majority of the Palestinian public, Dahlan is a paid Emirati agent who will never be accepted as a PA leader, though he warns of a possible exception. “The people I know within the State Department or the strategic planners for the US government never trusted Dahlan before,” Oweiss told Inside Arabia. “I don’t know if they trust him now after his involvement in the normalization deal. But if Trump is in power for four more years, anything can happen because the American administration under his leadership is going to do whatever the Israelis dictate to them.”
A Palestinian official ruled out that scenario: “No one can impose a Palestinian Authority leader on us; the ballot boxes are the only way for Palestinians to present their candidacy.”
The possibility of Dahlan heading the PA seems to be even more farfetched given the enormous distrust the man has generated among the Palestinian people. It should be recalled that not long ago, Dahlan was allegedly behind brokering schemes to buy Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem for the purpose of reselling them to Israeli settlers. According to Middle East Monitor, Palestinian middlemen used funds from a company owned by Dahlan to attempt to buy a home near Al-Aqsa Mosque for US$20 million. When it comes to new leadership, Palestinians would perceive Dahlan as the UAE’s partner in every malicious endeavor.