The American Foreign Policy magazine revealed new information that clarifies the close friendship between Mohammed Dahlan, who was separated from the Palestinian Fatah movement in 2011, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, which reached the point where the two go out at sunset for night strolls in the desert streets of Abu Dhabi The fast and they chant their favorite Arabic songs.
In a report written by Jonathan H. Ferziger, the magazine confirmed that Dahlan had found a new role for himself after he sought refuge in the Emirates and bin Zayed granted him a safe haven after fleeing Palestine.
The report stated that Dahlan’s strong friendship with bin Zayed made him an influential hand “albeit invisible” in drafting the Abraham agreements related to establishing relations with Israel through the mediation of the United States of America, which Israel signed with the UAE and Bahrain last month.
The report dealt with the luxury life that Dahlan currently lives in Abu Dhabi instead of the one he used to live in Gaza, thanks to the commercial relations and interests he established there and his strong relationship with bin Zayed. The report notes the change in his personal life between the Gaza period, in which he used to live a simple life and wore modest clothes, and the period in Abu Dhabi, in which he lives a velvet life in a luxurious villa with marble floors and fashion from the most famous international brands.
He said that Dahlan, who is considered one of the enemies of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is the mastermind of the agreements establishing Arab relations with Israel, and although Dahlan did not appear in the picture during the Emirati-Israeli meetings, he was “the influential hand in these agreements,” indicating that his exit From Palestine he was a disgrace when the Palestinian police raided his house in Ramallah to arrest him. Pointing out that Abu Dhabi’s dealings with the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinians only take place after consulting Dahlan first.
The American magazine also covered the history of Dahlan after his departure from Palestine, noting that over the past nine years, Dahlan had established an unusually close relationship with bin Zayed, the rebellious Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who granted Dahlan a sanctuary when he fled Abbas.
She said that Dahlan, who was born in a refugee camp in Gaza, works as an international special envoy for bin Zayed as he helps arrange commercial and political deals from North Africa to Eastern Europe. He added, according to Dahlan, that at sunset the two men, “referring to him and bin Zayed”, go for a midnight car ride, singing Arabic songs they prefer while wandering the desert highways in Abu Dhabi.
She emphasized that he is considered an “behind the scenes” engineer of the Emirati position, who also puts pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and puts him in embarrassing situations. Abu Dhabi planes came via Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
In remarks to Foreign Policy, Bishara Bahbah, a Palestinian academic known for criticizing President Abbas and who co-wrote opinion columns with former US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, said that bin Zayed “will not do anything towards the Palestinians without consulting with Dahlan.” He added, “It is crucial to that.” The American magazine said that an Emirati official refused to discuss Dahlan’s relationship with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
The report touched on Dahlan’s path since his appearance on the Palestinian scene, stressing that he had played a long game to ascend to the summit, and described his political career in Palestine as volatile, as he wooed and approached Washington in order to become a potential successor to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
She said that Dahlan was born in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, and he grew up as one of the young leaders of the Palestinian uprising in 1987, where he learned Hebrew during multiple periods spent in Israeli prisons. Eventually Dahlan gained Arafat’s confidence as his main aide when he was headquartered in Tunis. Upon their return in 1993 with the Oslo peace accords, Dahlan led Fatah in Gaza and led security operations there.
But during his rise to the ranks of the Palestinian Authority after Arafat’s death in 2004, Dahlan constantly clashed with Abbas, and he and Abbas had been trading accusations of corruption for years, fueling the hatred between them. He pointed out that, in the end, Dahlan was unpopular in the street, and at that time he had no choice but to exile.
In 2014, a Palestinian court convicted Dahlan in absentia of “defaming Abbas” and sentenced him to two years in prison. A year later, he was sentenced to another three years in prison for embezzlement.
The report described Dahlan as a child who is often frustrated but never gives up. Once described by Israel as a terrorist, it became a central player in negotiating the Oslo peace accords. Adding: It seems that the American administrations one after the other fall in love with him, starting with former President Bill Clinton, then President George W. Bush and now Trump.
The report emphasized that Dahlan, while he was in Gaza, despised the Islamists as he humiliated their leaders during his assumption of the security leadership in the Strip.
The report indicated that Dahlan, who has not appeared on the social networking site Twitter, has not been seen inside the borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 2011, but his wife Jalila has played a role inside the Strip to build support for him there by organizing group marriages for Gaza residents who suffer from poverty. Confirming that he is a heavy smoker and has a history of heart problems.
Commenting on a meeting with Dahlan in 2011, Jonathan said: I met Dahlan the night before the police raid his home in Ramallah on July 28, 2011, and at that time I got acquainted with his compulsion and charm. He added that while he did not interview Western journalists, I was invited as a Bloomberg News reporter to meet him, along with a Palestinian reporter. He says: We waited for about an hour before the retired warlord greeted us in his living room, wearing a jacket and slippers. Smiling Dahlan told us that he would have to cancel the planned interview because the time was not right, but he would be happy to speak informally. Then he sat next to me on the sofa.
Jonathan showed Dahlan’s insidious intelligence sense, inferred to the situation he went through during the interview, where he said: Dahlan liked my iPhone, and browsed the applications on it until he found the recorder and then closed it.
Speaking in the interview, Dahlan was relentless in his belittling of Abbas and said he hoped to be overthrown one day in the elections. At the conclusion of the interview, he apologized for the confusion and promised a future opportunity to interview us.
The next morning of the interview, Jonathan says: I woke up to a radio report stating that Dahlan had disappeared from the Strip while dozens of Palestinian commandos were storming his home. They arrested 10 of his bodyguards and seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition in the basement. As a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dahlan was immune from arrest, but by the next day, news emerged that he had managed to escape, left the West Bank and crossed into Jordan.
Jonathan pointed out that, four years after the first meeting, he was able to speak with Dahlan again as a reporter for Bloomberg as well, from inside his sprawling home in Abu Dhabi. He said Dahlan was dressy in a black Boss shirt and blue jeans, and I was interviewed in the marble-floored living room.
Jonathan pointed out that Villa Dahlan, which lies within sight of the towering skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, has become known as an “international salon”, in which Palestinian and Israeli politicians mix. After his arrival in Abu Dhabi, Dahlan became increasingly involved in commercial interests, describing himself as a “door opener” for clients due to the vast network of international relations he developed while traveling around the world with Arafat.
He pointed out that, in addition to his relationship with bin Zayed, Dahlan had a close relationship with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who consulted with him about how to confront the Islamic movements in Egypt.
The report also stated that after Abu Dhabi rescued Serbian Airlines in 2013 and invested $ 3 billion in developing a property on the waterfront in Belgrade, Dahlan and his family acquired Serbian citizenship.
During the interview, Dahlan spoke frankly and formally, including some mysteries and rhetorical ambiguities. Instead of saying that he will run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, he said that he will seek re-election to parliament and that he will attend what he called the “added value” component of the leadership team after Abbas leaves the Palestinian theater. He also expressed his gratitude for the life he lives in Abu Dhabi and his fondness for enjoying the moonlight while driving with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Jonathan said: Of course, when you deal with Dahlan, it is difficult for you to take things at face value. The author of the report mentioned that Dahlan is accused of poisoning the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and he has also been accused of helping the Israeli Mossad kill a Hamas member in Dubai, “referring to the assassination. Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh on January 19, 2010 in a Dubai hotel.
Adding that, despite Dahlan’s denial, that there was news that he was already on board one of the Emirati planes that landed in Tel Aviv under the guise of providing medical aid to the Palestinians, which President Abbas refused.
The report emphasized that although Muhammad Dahlan’s political star is currently bleak, he is providing influential advice to Abu Dhabi on how to deal with the Palestinian leadership. He pointed out that after the signing of the relationship agreement between the UAE and Israel, which was rejected by the reform movement, its faction within the Fatah movement, popular protests took place in the streets against the agreement, and during these protests, pictures of Dahlan and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed were burned and the protesters trampled on them.
The report concluded by saying that at present, Dahlan lives in the shadows, as he resides his “nest” in Abu Dhabi with commercial relations. He still dreams of succeeding Abbas in the Palestinian presidency, and advises his Emirati friends on dealing with the Palestinians. He added that a lot depends on whether Trump will win the second term as president of the United States of America or whether Democratic candidate Joe Biden will come to the White House with a more multilateral approach. The question for Dahlan – and for the region – is whether he can bypass the revenge of his old rivals and play a major role in bringing the Palestinians to a rapidly transforming Middle East?