New Egyptian movement has been tracked recently as it opened Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Sunday to allow some 120 Gazans to attend a socioeconomic conference near the city of Suez, in what was described by Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, as “an unusual move”.
Haaretz reported that the Gazans, mostly businessmen and clan chiefs, are expected to return to the Strip on Thursday.
In fact, this is the second time during last month that a high-level Palestinian delegation – some of whose members are supporters of Mohammed Dahlan – has been allowed to enter Egypt via Rafah., according to sources in Gaza.
It is noteworthy that Dahlan is considered a bitter rival of Mahmoud Abbas – the head of the of Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli newspaper said, “Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank say this reflects a change in Egyptian policy, which could affect Cairo’s relations with both Abbas and Hamas.”
“Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is angry with Abbas because the latter rejected an Egyptian initiative to bring Dahlan back into the fold of Abbas’ Fatah party, “as reported by Haaretz.
In the same context, in October Al-Jazeera quoted Yoni Ben-Menachem, an Israeli expert on Arab affairs, saying that Egypt is helping Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian Fatah leader, through a conference that is held these days in Cairo under the auspices of the Egyptian intelligence Service to support him at the expense of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Ben-Menachem said in an article on News One, an Israeli news website, that Abbas protested to the Egyptian leadership, but Cairo continues to support Dahlan, because they see that Dahlan is the person who is capable of overthrowing the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Gaza Strip.
He explained that Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi does not seem affected by Abbas’s refusal to reconcile with his opponent, but he continues to support Dahlan’s political activities to enable him of returning to the ranks of Fatah, and become the heir (successor) of Abbas, in the light of the (good) relations between Dahlan and the Egyptian General Intelligence Service.
He pointed out that Cairo is witnessing these days a conference, participated by 130 figures from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon who are all considered supporters of Dahlan. He added that Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit will be the guest of honor to the conference, “as reported by Al-Jazeera.
Abbas’ people believe al-Sisi has been easing his clampdown on Gaza as a gesture to Dahlan.
Al-Sisi has opened Rafah to regular traffic on eight days over the past month and is mulling various economic projects with Gaza, including an old idea of developing joint Egyptian-Palestinian industrial parks on the Gaza-Egypt border.
Haaretz reported that “Rafah opened last month on October 15-16, and again from October 19-23, according to Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. During those days, 4,544 people left Gaza and 2,117 entered.”
Altogether, Rafah has been open for only 33 days since the start of the year, so the October openings accounted for almost a quarter of the total so far this year.
In addition, Hamas Resistance Movement says it has noticed a shift in Egypt’s attitude as well, “but is uncertain how long it will last – especially since it, too, views the changes primarily as an Egyptian gesture toward Dahlan, aimed at pressuring Abbas.”
The struggle between Abbas and Dahlan just keeps worsening. The PA’s Constitutional Court authorized Abbas to expel Dahlan from the Palestinian Legislative Council on Sunday, ruling that the PA president has the power to expel legislators.
Many Palestinian politicians perceived the ruling as a “political decision” aimed at expanding Abbas’ power before Fatah’s General Conference at the end of this month. The conference is supposed to choose a new party leadership.
Supporting Dahlan isn’t a new issue
When King Abdullah of Jordan visited Cairo on August 24, on the top agenda of King Abdallah and al-Sisi’s talks was” the Palestinian arena and particularly the municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza,” said Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Both Egypt and Jordan fear the strengthening of Hamas and its possible victory in the West Bank local elections “because of the deep division within the Fatah organization and, particularly, the unbridgeable disputes between the faction headed by Muhammad Dahlan and the one headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.”
“Hence, in an extremely irregular fashion, al-Sisi and Abdullah issued a joint statement on the importance of the Palestinian problem and the need to achieve unity and resolve the disputes within Fatah itself,” said the Israeli Research Center.
The statement reflects the Egyptian-Jordanian order of priorities: first reconciliation within Fatah to cut off the way for Hamas victory in elections and only afterward the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
The JCPA said that the statement should indeed call on Abbas to fix fences with his bitter rival Dahlan so that Fatah can run in the elections in a unified form and prevent a Hamas victory.
In fact, this is not the first time al-Sisi has asked Abbas to mend his differences with Dahlan, but it was rejected because Fatah Central Committee opposes reconciliation.
In the same context, a joint Egyptian-Jordanian-UAE plan was reportedly pointing that the UAE -Egypt’s Gulf ally- plans to install Dahlan as the new PA president in the post-Abbas era.
A leaked audio of an Egyptian Intelligence Official, Palestinian Dahlan Mock President Abbas
Last September, Mekameleen TV Channel broadcast a leaked audio phone call for Egypt’s Intelligence Maj. General Wael al-Safty, officially responsible for the Palestinian Portfolio at Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, and Mohamed Dahlan, the former strongman of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, who lives in the UAE.
The Leaked audio reflects Egypt’s stance from the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas and how Egypt’s General Intelligence deal with the Palestinian organization.
In this leaked recording, the Egyptian high rank official’s voice was the only voice heard, without Dahlan’s responses. However, the person on the other end of the telephone was Dahlan, because he was referred to by his traditional Palestinian nickname, Abu Fadi.
After exchanging pleasantries, they began talking about someone who has” no sufficient concentration”. Safty then said that this person “has nothing to offer”. The tapes go on to make clear that the man they are talking about is Abbas.
The Intelligence official said that Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t have the ability to think, realize or concentrate adding that his main aim is to remain in power.
Al-Safty also said that the Palestinian factions, which Abbas failed to contain have turned to be like Hamas, saying, “He could not even contain the other factions.” He continued, “These are the ones that Abu Mazen (Abbas’s nickname) couldn’t contain; these people drove me absolutely crazy, their positions have begun to be closer to Hamas.”
Al Safty said, “Fatah is extremely bad,” adding, “The Palestinian Liberation Organization is even worse.”
The Intelligence official described Abbas as being “not smart at all. He doesn’t have anything to offer,” “He can’t bring them (factions) together,” Safty tells Dahlan in utter exasperation. “I swear, he can’t bring them together.
“It’s stupidity,” he says, before again referring to Abbas’s advancing age, adding that the PA President does not have many laps left to run: “The track is running out, if you excuse the phrase.”
Then, both Dahlan and the intelligence official continued in mocking Abbas, Azzam al-Ahmed and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority. Al-Safty asked Dahlan, “Did you see the picture of Abu Nidaa (Azzam al-Ahmed) when he was eating?” “It was a scandalous image I swear, a scandal, a scandal, a scandal.”
Abu Nidaa is Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah member, who is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PLO ambassador to Iraq between 1974 and 2002. Al-Ahmed was simply eating a traditional Arab dish of lamb and rice with his hands at a banquet in Qatar.
Al-Ahmed has, however, publicly and vigorously condemned Arab involvement in Palestinian affairs.
Al-Safty also attacked Fatah movement that has ruled the Palestinian Authority since 1994. According to Mekameleen TV Channel, the date of the leaked audio goes back to last June.
The Egyptian regime polishes Dahlan in the political arena
Last October, Dahlan appeared in interview with an Egyptian TV Channel last month where he unveiled his conflict with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the Arab initiatives presented behind the scenes to mediate reconciliation between both parties, according to Arabi 21.
Dahlan’s interview gave an insight that al-Sisi regime is polishing former Fatah movement leader in the political arena by offering him a platform to present his point of view regarding Palestinian issues.
According to many observers Dahlan’s appearance on an Egyptian TV channel wasn’t an ordinary media interview, but they said that the interview was mainly based on a political decision that reflects the Egyptian regime ‘s support to Dahlan in his conflict with Abbas.
In the interview, the former Fatah leader attacked Abu Mazen and threatened Abbas stream inside Fatah movement saying “We won’t forgive this stream,” and he repeated his threats again, saying, “Fatah sons won’t allow Abbas to continue in his practices against the movement.”
Dahlan has been exiled from both Gaza and the West Bank, and has close ties with the UAE monarchy. In Gaza Strip, Dahlan is still hated for his attempted coup after Hamas’s electoral victory in 2007.
Last August, Abbas cracked down on weapons stockpiling as various factions were preparing for a post-Abbas landscape in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials and senior Fatah figures said that it was Dahlan who had sparked the arms race, by arming his followers in areas where he still retains support.