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Mohammed Dahlan, a Palestinian Exile, on an Arab Vision for Gaza

As the Gaza conflict rages, with civilian deaths hovering, few Arab leaders have publicly voiced their visions for the way forward for the battered enclave, fearing they are going to be accused of endorsing Israel’s actions.

But one influential Palestinian exile, in an interview with The New York Times, has supplied public perception into the varieties of postwar plans that Arab leaders are privately discussing.

Mohammed Dahlan, an adviser to the president of the United Arab Emirates, outlined one beneath which Israel and Hamas would hand energy to a new and impartial Palestinian chief who may rebuild Gaza beneath the safety of an Arab peacekeeping power.

While such plans face steep challenges, the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are open to supporting processes which are a part of efforts resulting in a Palestinian state, stated Mr. Dahlan, who additionally has shut ties to Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Officials from six Arab governments gathered in Saudi Arabia final week to debate the way forward for Gaza and the necessity for a cease-fire, in line with two Palestinian officers, who spoke on the situation of anonymity.

Under the plan outlined by Mr. Dahlan and echoed privately by Arab nations, a new Palestinian chief would assume accountability for Gaza and the elements of the Israeli-occupied West Bank at present administered by the Palestinian Authority. That chief would exchange Mahmoud Abbas, the authority’s 88-year-old president, who would retain a ceremonial position, Mr. Dahlan stated.

“No Abbas, no Hamas,” stated Mr. Dahlan, who has lengthy been at odds with Mr. Abbas. “New people in charge of the Palestinian Authority.”

For years, Mr. Dahlan was remoted from the Palestinian political scene, and criticized by many energy gamers.

He was Mr. Abbas’s nationwide safety adviser when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, and he had a status for brutality that made him unpopular with many Palestinians. His relationship with Mr. Abbas deteriorated amid perceptions that he was attempting to succeed him, and he was convicted of corruption in absentia, on prices he denies, in 2016.

In the U.A.E., he constructed shut relationships with members of the royal household, initially reconnecting with Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, his former counterpart within the Emirati safety institution. He additionally linked with Sheikh Hazza’s brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who grew to become president in 2022. Mr. Dahlan has since change into certainly one of his key advisers.

“He’s very much the Emirati president’s point man on Palestinian policy,” Mouin Rabbani, a Palestinian politics skilled, stated of Mr. Dahlan.

Mr. Dahlan nonetheless has critics who say that he used heavy-handed ways in Gaza, and that he had a tendency for self-promotion. But he’s a important power in Palestinian politics, analysts say, partly the results of his serving to to steer Emirati funds to Gaza.

He oversees a political occasion that was seen as a attainable kingmaker throughout a 2021 election marketing campaign within the West Bank and Gaza, earlier than the vote was canceled. He coordinates often with different Palestinian opposition leaders in a free community looking for to unseat Mr. Abbas.

“He’s a prominent Palestinian politician with a wide network of support in Gaza,” stated Jehad Harb, an analyst based mostly in Ramallah, within the West Bank. “The millions the Emirates has funneled to Gaza through him has only reinforced his standing there.”

Mr. Dahlan additionally has constructed shut ties with high Hamas officers lately, in line with Ghaith al-Omari, an analyst of Palestinian affairs on the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In the interview, Mr. Dahlan, 62, stated a new Palestinian administration may invite pleasant Arab states to ship troops to assist maintain order in Gaza. And nations just like the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia could be ready to assist — and to fund reconstruction — if Israel agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state, he stated.

“If there is a two-state solution, the answer is a big yes,” Mr. Dahlan stated.

“The main Arab countries are really very keen to settle this conflict,” he added. “Not the war, the whole conflict.”

Saudi Arabia and Egypt declined to remark on the plan described by Mr. Dahlan. A U.A.E. assertion didn’t instantly deal with the plan, however stated, “Our contribution to any reconstruction effort in Gaza will be conditional” on commitments towards attaining “a two-state solution.”

Briefed on the plan that Mr. Dahlan described, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati political scientist, stated it was “consistent with what we know about what we call ‘the day after’” the conflict, referring to what he had been listening to about discussions amongst Arab leaders.

The plan faces appreciable hurdles. The Palestinian Authority and Mr. Abbas have balked at modifications to the group, which stays mired in corruption and is broadly seen as authoritarian.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has pledged to retain “overall security” management over Gaza and the West Bank, rejecting a totally sovereign Palestinian state. Mr. Netanyahu’s political base can be pushing to resettle Israeli civilians inside Gaza as soon as the conflict ends.

Any proposal would additionally require buy-in from Hamas, which nonetheless controls a part of southern Gaza.

The scenario in Gaza is dire: An estimated 28,000 individuals have been killed; most buildings are broken or destroyed, in line with the United Nations; and many of the 2.2 million residents have fled their houses.

Mr. Dahlan stated that a few of his household had been killed in Gaza and that lots of their houses had been destroyed.

Mr. Dahlan grew up in southern Gaza, in the identical metropolis as Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas chief who oversaw the Oct. 7 assault on Israel.

Mr. Dahlan joined Fatah, Hamas’s secular rival, and rose to change into the Palestinian Authority’s safety chief in Gaza. He was touring outdoors Gaza when Hamas seized management of it in 2007, stripping him of his energy and prompting his flight to the West Bank. Four years later, Mr. Dahlan fell out with Mr. Abbas. After he was ousted from Fatah and Palestinian safety forces raided his residence in Ramallah, he fled.

In exile, Mr. Dahlan accrued energy, wealth and affect via his shut friendship with the Emirati president, whom he represents as an emissary all through the area.

The indicators of his comfy place in Abu Dhabi had been obvious through the interview, which passed off contained in the grounds of a palace owned by the Emirati royal household. Outside his workplace stood a chrome-colored Bentley; in his sitting room had been at the least 12 massive sofas.

Though as soon as seen by some Israelis as a potential associate, Mr. Dahlan confirmed little sympathy for Israeli issues within the interview. He dismissed the concept of him attempting to persuade Israelis in regards to the want for a Palestinian state. “It’s not my job to convince the Israelis,” he stated. “Let them go to hell.”

Mr. Dahlan stated he was working to persuade Hamas to cede energy to a new Palestinian management, hinting that the group could possibly be persuaded to surrender management as a part of a broader bundle that created a Palestinian state.

For a decade, Mr. Dahlan has been broadly thought-about a attainable successor to Mr. Abbas. But within the interview, he stated he was bored with taking on a formal management position.

Mr. Dahlan is unlikely to be in a rush to depart the U.A.E. so as to lead a difficult reconstruction course of in a rancorous political system, Mr. Omari stated. Still, he has spent appreciable money and time sustaining networks within the West Bank and Gaza, suggesting he has long-term political aspirations, Mr. Omari stated.

“He’s not someone who has checked out of Palestine,” he stated.

Like different senior Palestinian politicians, Mr. Dahlan shied away from condemning the Hamas-led assault, during which Israeli officers say about 1,200 individuals had been killed.

But he criticized Hamas leaders for claiming that Gazans had been able to pay the worth of the group’s actions.

“Relying on people suffering isn’t leadership,” he stated. “The Palestinian people want to live.”


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