Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dahlan isn't the answer

Israel must avoid tendency to rely on Fatah leaders in hopes of curbing Hamas
Dore Gold

Mohammed Dahlan has resigned from the post of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' national security advisor. More than any other Palestinian figure, Dahlan symbolized the cooperation between Israel and Fatah at the height of the Oslo period during the '90s.

Many Israeli citizens view Dahlan as a man who bravely fought against Hamas in the past and believe that his defeat by Hamas is part of the price he had to pay. Several reasons can be identified for Dahlan's resignation, but it is clear that they do not include unbridgeable dogmatic differences between him and Hamas, as history showed us otherwise.

The latest clashes between Fatah and Hamas made many forget how closely the two organizations cooperated on the operational level over the years. On January 22, 2006, Dahlan appeared on Lebanese television network LBC and revealed that he warned "the brothers in Hamas" that they must hide Yahya Ayyash, the military wing's leading engineer responsible for all suicide attacks against Israel at the time.

Dahlan bemoaned the fact Hamas failed to heed his warning and added: "All your military commanders were protected by the (Palestinian) defense establishment during the (second) Intifada. They enjoyed full protection."

Dahlan noted that one of the most notable figures he protected was none other than Mohammed Deif, Yahya Ayyash's successor. We also know that at the time Dahlan's deputy was responsible for a terror attack on a bus carrying children from the Gaza community of Kfar Darom to their school.

Another symbol of the emerging cooperation between Israel and Fatah today is Marwan Barghouti, who is perceived as a powerful figure able to lead a renewed Fatah struggle against Hamas should he be released from Israeli prison.

Many forget that at the height of the second Intifada, Barghouti headed an umbrella organization called The National and Islamic Forces that coordinated Hamas and Fatah attacks against Israel.

Think twice about helping Fatah

Documents seized by the IDF revealed that Barghouti signed orders to pay al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades members involved in serious attacks against Israeli citizens.

We can assume that after he is released he will again be promoting reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, as he did in the "Prisoners' Document" that dealt with cooperation between Fatah and Hamas in the struggle against Israel.

Following Hamas' Gaza Strip takeover, we see Israeli enthusiasm over renewed cooperation with Fatah, without taking a moment to think back to past experience.

The Israeli leadership can go ahead and meet with Abbas in order to maintain open channels of communication with the Palestinians, but it should think twice before it invests funds and hands over weapons to Fatah and grants it international legitimacy – particularly in Washington.

After all, we are talking about an organization that is willing to cooperate with Israel at a time of weakness but can quickly renew its partnership with Hamas and other violent organizations, as was the case in the past decade.

It would be preferable for Israel to deepen its diplomatic cooperation on the Palestinian question with Jordan and Egypt, in light of the fact that those two countries present themselves as interested parties in this matter. An alternative diplomatic approach must be outlined to replace the one that has unequivocally failed upon the implementation of the Oslo agreements and the disengagement.

The return on such track cannot be immediate and would require years of hard diplomatic work, but Israel can count on the fact that both Egypt and Jordan fear Palestinian radicalization and a Hamas boost, which may ultimately constitute a catalyst for an Islamic revolution in their territory, with the Iranian threat looming in the background.

What is clear is that Israel cannot readopt the same overused formulae, which have proven to be unfeasible.

Dore Gold is a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nation and President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

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