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February 6, 2014 12:17 pm

Report: Netanyahu in Talks With Abbas Rival Mohammed Dahlan

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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Former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is covertly seeking out other potential Palestinian Arab peace partners to negotiate with – instead of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Thursday. The news comes as current Israeli-PA framework agreement talks enter their seventh month.

Netanyahu’s special envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, has met with Abbas rival Mohammed Dahlan on at least one occasion, according to Ma’ariv.

Mohammed Dahlan is a former Fatah Central Committee member who was once a leading Palestinian political figure. At the peak of his power Dahlan was also head of the Preventive Security Authority of the Palestinian Authority. However, he fell from grace when terror group Hamas forcefully took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, a development for which he was held responsible by Abbas.

Following Hamas’s conquest of Gaza, Dahlan attempted to oust Abbas as ruler of the Palestinian Authority. However, Abbas managed to beat back Dahlan, who was eventually forced out of Fatah.

Since then, Dahlan has been trying to create pockets of internal resistance to the President of the PA, Ma’ariv said.

The back channel talks with Dahlan are being conducted in part because of a realization by Israeli leaders that Abbas is either unwilling or unable to sign a final status agreement with Jerusalem, Ma’ariv said.

In contrast, Dahlan is believed by some senior level government officials in Jerusalem to genuinely desire peace with Israel. Supporters of the discussions inside the Israeli government also believe that Dahlan could act as an important bridge between the West Bank and Gaza, which was at one point Dahlan’s power center, according to the report.

One of the main arguments used by opponents of Israeli-PA negotiations has long been that Abbas does not represent the Palestinian Arab people, Ma’ariv said. The fact that the PA President has put off elections in the West Bank for years only proves the point that his popular following is limited, the paper added.

Another argument against Abbas-led peace talks with Israel is that he has no control over the population of Gaza. As a result, any negotiated settlement between Jerusalem and Ramallah would not include its inhabitants, Ma’ariv said.

Furthermore, Dahlan himself has claimed that he, and not Abbas, can be counted on to bring peace. Dahlan reportedly sent a letter to the American government in 2010 in which he said that, “There is no choice but to replace Abbas with someone who can deliver results.”

The office of Israeli Premier Netanyahu has not commented on Molcho’s alleged association with Dahlan, Ma’ariv said.

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