Mohammad Dahlan: Who Needs Ramallah? Gaza’s the Place

The new Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia, aka Abu Ala, last week sought to entice Mohammed Dahlan, Gaza strongman and internal security minister in Abu Mazen's short-lived administration, to join his cabinet.

“If you join my government, you won’t have to spend any time in Ramallah,” Abu Ala said, indirectly addressing Dahlan’s sour relations with Yasser Arafat.

“You will be the king of Gaza. I’ll give you free rein, as long as you support me,” Abu Ala added.

So far, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Palestinian sources report, Dahlan has not give the Qureia any reply. Indeed the prime minister may be better off remaining in the dark about Dahlan’s schemes, in which neither he nor Yasser Arafat have any part – and which aims to reduce Ramallah to a backwater

A deal the Gazan boss has just cut with Abu Ali Shahid, one of the richest and most influential men in the Gaza Strip, sets him on the road toward his ambition of shaping the territory into a power base that will rival Ramallah.

Ali Shahid cut his leadership teeth among fellow Palestinian terrorists doing time in Israeli jails. After the Palestinian Authority was established by the Oslo Accords, Arafat appointed him minister of supplies. The relationship between him and Dahlan was not always smooth. As late as June 2003, Dahlan blocked his appointment to the Abu Mazen government. Now they have joined forces to topple the veteran Fatah leadership ruling the Gaza Strip and West Bank and drive them out of their traditional positions of power. This tactic will loosen Arafat’s grip on Palestinian ruling institutions.

Their shared ambitions soar high indeed. According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Palestinian sources they plan to set up a media empire in the Gaza Strip, with a television station to rival Palestinian State TV broadcasting from Ramallah, a newspaper and a weekly magazine. The financing is in place, raised by Dahlan from Palestinian and Egyptian investors in the West Bank and Cairo.

The boss of Gaza has quietly recruited more than 40 percent of the Tanzim-Fatah militia on the West Bank, wooing them throughout November with sumptuous Ramadan dinners and Eid al-Fitr feasting. Ever so quietly, Dahlan is going from strength to strength.

Our sources cite his decision to dispense with cooperation with either Arafat or Abu Ala. The latter’s government he expects to be short-lived while Arafat is seen as a spent force. Dahlan has told his people he prefers to invest hard work and money in long-term options that will come to fruition when Arafat is gone.

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