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Maariv: Netanyahu is looking for alternative to Abbas

The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported on Thursday that Israel is maintaining contact with former Fatah leader Mohamed Dahlan, claiming that he is a better partner for peace than Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to the newspaper, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dispatched Yitzchak Molcho, a senior official from his office, to meet with Dahlan in Dubai, where he has been living since 2010 when he was dismissed from Fatah.

Dahlan served as head of the PA's Protective Security Services in the Gaza strip for years. However, he was accused of plotting against Abbas and that led to his dismissal from Fatah. The newspaper speculated that previous meetings might have preceded the latest meeting with Molcho.

Maariv also reported that Israel could be interested in maintaining relations with Dahlan because it is preparing to replace Abbas if the latter resigns as PA president after proving himself incapable of signing a final status deal with the Israelis.

The newspaper added that: "There are some Israeli officials who believe that Dahlan is a better peace partner than Abbas, as he can control both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

It continued, saying that Abbas is unable to represent all Palestinians as he rejects holding elections. Therefore, he is not able to sign a viable deal to establish the Palestinian state because he does not control the Gaza Strip, and it is important for the Strip to be included in any such deal.

Maariv cited a letter sent by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last August to the UN Secretary General, US Secretary of State, EU Foreign Police Chief and the Russian Foreign Minister.

Lieberman's widely disseminated letter called for the international community to set a date for Palestinian elections in order to replace Abbas. It also argued that: "Under Abbas' weak control, he is unable to renew the talks as the PA suffers much corruption."

The letter continued: "This situation poses a threat ahead of the peace process. Therefore, the time to discuss a creative solution has come. It is to reinforce the Palestinian leadership… There must be new elections to get a new and legal leadership that we hope will be realistic."

Lieberman added that: "Anyone coming after Abbas will be better for Israel… Abbas is not a peace partner."

The newspaper noted what former State Minister Yossi Belin wrote in a book: "There are some [Israeli] personalities that the peace camp does not recognise and thus it loses them." He mentioned Lieberman as one of them and said that: "They are able to be the key to peace."

Maariv also cited the message that Dahlan sent to the US administration in 2010, claiming that Abbas is not a peace partner, while he is able to be a peace partner. Dahlan then urged Washington to replace Abbas with a person who is able to be a good partner for peace.

According to the newspaper, Fatah conducted an investigation that led to dismissing Dahlan, who absconded to Jordan then to Dubai. But it claimed that he is still maintaining effective sovereignty in the PA. The newspaper claimed that Dahlan subsidise different activities in the PA territories.

Regarding an official Israeli comment on the meeting between Molcho and Dahlan, Maariv said it contacted Netanyahu's office but had no comment.

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