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Mohammed Dahlan

(1961 - )

Mohammed Dahlan was born on September 29, 1961 in the Khan Yunis refugee camp, Gaza (now Nitzanim). Dahlan is married with three children.

He received a BA in Business Administration from the Islamic University of Gaza.

Dahlan was a founding member of the Fatah Youth Association in 1981. He is a Fatah party member.

Dahlan was arrested eleven times by the Israelis for his involvements as the Gaza leader of the Fatah Shabiba (youth) movement. The arrests occurred between the years 1981 - 1986. Dahlan was a student leader in the Palestinian intifada of the 1980s. In 1988, he was deported to Jordan and later went to Tunis where he continued to orchestrate the protesters and won Yasser Arafat’s confidence. Dahlan returned to Gaza in 1994. Upon his return to Gaza in 1994, he enjoyed a wave of popular support.

After the signing of the Oslo Accords, Dahlan became head of the Preventive Security Forces in Gaza. He built up a force of 20,000 men, making him one of the most powerful Palestinian leaders, dealing regularly with the CIA and Israeli intelligence officials. His forces were accused of torturing Hamas detainees throughout the 1990s, allegations Dahlan denied.

During this period Gaza was nicknamed Dahlanistan due to his power. His reputation was damaged in the Karni scandal of 1997 when it was revealed that Dahlan was diverting 40% of the taxes levied at the Karni Crossing (an estimated one million Shekels a month) to his personal bank account.

Dahlan angered Arafat in November 2001 by expressing dissatisfaction over the lack of a coherent policy during the current uprising. He was also criticized by human rights groups for his methods during past crackdowns on Islamic militants.

Dahlan resigned in June 2002 over disagreements with Arafat to reform the Palestinian Authority. He attempted to gather support for an electoral challenge to Arafat, but stopped, out of loyalty to Palestinians, when the Bush administration demanded a change in PA leadership in July of the same year.

Before his resignation from the PA in June 2002, Dahlan was a frequent member on negotiating teams for security issues. He was a negotiator at the Camp David summit in 2000.

Although he had been highly sought after by Mahmoud Abbas to join his cabinet because of his experience and reform ideas, Dahlan was a controversial figure. He was accused of using custom cell phone technology to stage terrorism strikes from secure distances, eliminating the need for suicide bombers. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon  blamed him for the attack on a bus in Gaza in Nov. 2000.

In April 2003, he was appointed the Palestinian Minister of State for Security by Mahmoud Abbas, despite the objection of Arafat. By September he had been ousted when Abbas resigned as prime minister.

In 2004, Dahlan was assumed to have been behind week-long unrest in Gaza following the appointment of Arafat’s nephew Moussa Arafat as head of Gaza police forces. This appointment was considered by some a deliberate step to weaken Dahlan’s position before the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza strip and sparked massive protests.

On January 26, 2006, Dahlan was narrowly elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in the Palestinian legislative election of 2006 as a representative for Khan Yunis. Dahlan took a tough stance against Hamas, calling their election victory a disaster and threatening to “haunt them from now till the end of their term” and to “rough up and humiliate” Fatah supporters tempted to join the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

On December 14, 2006, gunmen attempted to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as he crossed Gaza’s border with Egypt, killing a bodyguard and wounding five others, and sparking further clashes between Hamas and Fatah supporters in Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas accused Dahlan of orchestrating the attack. Dahlan rejected the accusations.

On January 7, 2007, Dahlan held the biggest-ever rally of Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip, where he denounced Hamas as “a bunch of murderers and thieves” and vowed that “we will do everything, I repeat, everything, to protect Fatah activists.” In response Hamas labeled Dahlan a “putschist” and accused him of bringing Palestinians to the brink of civil war.

Dahlan was a Fatah representative in negotiations which resulted in the Fatah–Hamas Mecca Agreement of February 8, 2007, in which both sides agreed to stop the military clashes in Gaza and form a government of national unity.

In March 2007, despite objections from Hamas, Dahlan was appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to lead the newly re-established Palestinian National Security Council, overseeing all security forces in the Palestinian territories. Dahlan organized paramilitary units of several thousand fighters trained with American assistance, and lobbied Israel to allow Fatah forces in Gaza to receive large shipments of arms and ammunition to fight Hamas.

In the April 2008 edition of Vanity Fair, it was revealed that after the 2006 elections Dahlan had been central in a U.S. plot to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. The Americans provided money and arms to Dahlan, trained his men and ordered him to carry out a military coup against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, the elected Hamas government forestalled the move and carried out an armed counter-coup.

In July 2007, Dahlan resigned from his post as national security adviser. The resignation was little more than a formality, since Abbas had issued a decree dissolving his national security council immediately after the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

Dahlan was blamed by many in Fatah for the rapid collapse of their forces in Gaza in the face of a Hamas offensive that lasted less than a week. During the fighting Dahlan’s house on the coast of Gaza was seized by Hamas militants and subsequently demolished. He and most of the other senior security commanders of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security forces were not in Gaza during the fighting, leading to charges that their men had been abandoned in the field.

Shortly after his forces were expelled from Gaza, Dahlan re-established himself in the West Bank.

In October 2007, the Bush administration reportedly exerted heavy pressure on Abbas to appoint Dahlan as his deputy. Some Fatah officials said that the U.S. and some EU countries had made it clear they would like to see Dahlan succeed Abbas as head of the PA.

In June 2011 Dahlan was expelled from Fatah because of repeated claims by Abbas that he had murdered Arafat. Dahlan moved to the United Arab Emirates, where he worked as a security adviser.

Acting prime minister of the PA, Nabil Shaath, alleged that Dahlan “played a crucial role in shaping the deal” of the Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement. Shaath accused him of “neglecting the interests of his homeland.”

Dahlan is married and has four children

Sources: The Guardian. 
San Francisco Jewish Community Publications
MSNBC, (December 6, 2001).

“Mohammed Dahlan,” Wikipedia.

Photo: Dahlan Facebook page.