Just who is Mohammad Dahlan, the deposed and disgraced Gaza warlord, who "lost" Gaza for Fatah back in 2007? And how true are recent media reports that he may be about to make a big come back on the Palestinian scene, possibly even aided by his arch-enemy, the Hamas movement?
Born in Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Dahlan was once head of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) highly militarised "Preventative Security" force. During the post-Oslo era, when Hamas first engaged in a campaign of retaliatory bombings against Israel, Dahlan's forces were responsible for brutal arrests and torture of Hamas activists and sympathisers. Some accounts date Dahlan's links with Israeli military and spy agencies as far back as 1994, when the PA was first being formed.
As I recounted in part one, Dahlan was at the vanguard of the Fatah-Israel-US-European conspiracy to overthrow the elected Palestinian government in 2006 after Hamas came to power in free and fair elections.
Dahlan has long been Western imperial powers' preferred interlocutor in the Palestinian scene. He is seen as a reliable potential dictator, much as Saddam Hussein was once seen by the West, and much as former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was seen. And certainly he is regarded in the much the same light as current Egyptian military dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the halls of Western imperial power.
Indeed, Dahlan is very much a wannabe Sisi, having formed very warm ties with him since the former's coup against the elected president of Egypt (who was kidnapped and "disappeared" by the military regime). He has also developed close ties with the regime of the United Arab Emirates (which, like all other Gulf regimes, is a tyranny run by absolute monarchs). The oil and gas money flowing to Dahlan from there keeps him in business.
As I recounted in a column in March, although once important allies, and despite essentially agreeing on the need to capitulate to American power by serving the interests of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, Dahlan and Abbas are now bitter enemies.
Dahlan, kicked out of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, was later extradited from the West Bank on fraud charges in 2010. He now reportedly lives between UAE and Egypt – but clearly travels a lot.
While the fraud charges against Dahlan were likely of substance, they were political in nature: a way for Abbas to get rid of a key rival to his throne – one with powerful Western and Gulf allies (to say nothing of the Israelis). After all, who is more corrupt than Abbas: the man whose son was mocked on Arab social media recently for carrying passport a passport marked "president's son" under the "occupation" field?
Last week marked a new milestone in the Dahlan-Abbas cold war. Posters of Dahlan were openly hoisted in Gaza for the first time in years. While the participants in this "demonstration" last Thursday were almost certainly for the most part paid loyalists, the very fact that Hamas allowed it to go ahead is significant.
Amid reports that Abbas's dictatorial behaviour had led to him losing ally after ally, it seems Hamas may feeling out the possibility of thawing relations with Dahlan. A long report in the pro-armed-resistance Lebanese leftist newspaper Al-Akhbar earlier this month quotes several Hamas leaders making ambiguous but unmistakably conciliatory statements in that direction.
Is Hamas genuine in this alarming initiative? Do they really want to "reconcile" with Dahlan the torturer; Dahlan the American and Israeli agent? Or is this some sort of political game, designed to confuse and infuriate their political rivals in Ramallah? Only time will tell.
But one thing is for sure. An alliance between a project of resistance to Israeli occupation and a project of acting as a proxy for that same occupation is doomed to failure.
An associate editor for The Electronic Intifada, Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.