September 16, 2015 | Quote

From Exile, a Divisive Figure Rattles Palestinian Politics

He is in the view of some Palestinians, and perhaps his own mind, the man who would be king.

From his roots in a Gaza refugee camp, Mohammed Dahlan scrambled to the top of Palestinian politics by his early 40s, backed by a reputation as a charismatic enforcer, someone who commanded loyalty and got things done. The Americans and British liked his style.

But he fell out with Yasser Arafat, and then bitterly with President Mahmoud Abbas, and has been in exile in the United Arab Emirates for much of the past five years, spending time building business ties and expanding his wealth and influence.

Now, with talk rife that Abbas, 80 and still smoking, could step down after 10 years as president, Dahlan is watching the chessboard of Palestinian affairs with a seasoned eye and contemplating his next move, from the safety of his Gulf villa.

Dahlan is in a group of around six people who are seen as potential successors, although all of them are too wise and too weathered by the backbiting of Palestinian affairs to talk openly about any plans to challenge for the leadership.

His reputation within the Fatah party is stained, with opponents casting him as a stooge of Western intelligence and an ally of Israel, but his outsider status may now be an advantage as popular discontent with the Fatah old guard mounts.


“If no figure among the (Palestinian) aristocracy separates him or herself as the clear front-runner, a free-for-all may ensue,” Grant Rumley, an expert on the Palestinians at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, DC, wrote in a paper this month, analyzing the succession question.

“In such a scenario, several figures may emerge. Chief among these challengers would be Mohammed Dahlan.”


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Palestinian Politics