A leading Israeli writer revealed yesterday an Israel-Egypt-UAE plan to install Mohamed Dahlan as the leader of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip instead of Mahmoud Abbas.
In an opinion piece in Haaretz, Zvi Bar'el said that while Hamas would remain in control of security and not be demilitarised, at least "Israel would have a partner in Gaza who supports reconciliation" with the Zionist state.
Dahlan, he pointed out, is the Palestinian president's "political rival" and if the plan succeeds it is expected that Abbas would be "pushed into a dark corner", leaving the former Fatah official free to move against him. The endgame could see Dahlan installed as Abbas's successor at the top of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and the PLO.
According to Bar'el, Egypt will ease the siege of Gaza by opening the Rafah Border Crossing for people and goods. The UAE, meanwhile, will fund a power station on the Egyptian side of the border near Rafah; a port is also a possibility. Dahlan is very close to the governments in Cairo and Abu Dhabi.
"It's still too early to assess whether this plan will be fully implemented," he wrote, "and if Hamas will agree to place Dahlan at the head of the Gaza government, a step that could all but sever Gaza from the West Bank, especially given the long feud between Abbas and Dahlan." On the other hand, the writer pointed out, if the plan does come to fruition, it could make an Israeli-Egyptian dream come true. A "state of Gaza" could become a reality with Dahlan at its head, something that, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, is "the plan's key".
If the plan succeeds, said Bar'el, it would "neutralise" the role of Qatar and Turkey in Gaza. He described Israel's policy of "what's good for Hamas is bad for Israel, and what helps Gazans strengthens Hamas" as a "failed concept". Instead, he clearly believes that this "new strategy" which places the people of Gaza first should be given serious consideration.
Observers point out that it is significant that Bar'el refers to "Gazans" and "people of Gaza" rather than Palestinians in Gaza. "This," said one, "tries to convince the world that 'Gazans' are somehow not Palestinians and all actually belong in the Gaza Strip. The reality is that most of the residents of Gaza do not originate there; they come from places inside what is now Israel and are refugees by design, not choice."
"The Gaza Strip" is a relatively recent term, he added. "It's only been used since the Nakba of 1948, prior to which the land was simply part of historic Palestine."