Dahlan, Muhammad (Abu Fadil; 1960–)

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DAHLAN, MUHAMMAD (Abu Fadil; 1960–)

Palestinian leader, born in 1961 in the refugee camp of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. At the beginning of the 1980s, Muhammad Dahlan became active in the al-Fatah youth movement (Shabibat al-Fatah) and was imprisoned by the Israelis. In December 1987, he was deported to Lebanon by the Israeli authorities. Later, Dahlan moved to Iraq, where he met Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), the head of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) security, who appointed him to oversee the Intifada in the Gaza Strip, in liaison with the Fatah Hawks. In 1989, Dahlan went to Tunis to work with PLO security, where, between 1990 and 1993, he was responsible for communications between the Unified National Command of the Uprising (UNCU) and the activists of the Intifada. In this capacity he became one of Yasir Arafat's advisors for Gaza Strip affairs.

In October 1993, following the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles signed on 13 September, Dahlan joined the Palestinian delegation to the Taba (Egypt) negotiations as a member of the security affairs commission. In December, Israeli authorities allowed him to return to the Palestinian territories. At the end of December, accompanied by Jibril Rajub, he went to Rome to meet General Shahak, Israeli army chief of staff, and Jacques Neria, advisor to the Israeli prime minister. The four jointly elaborated a plan for coordinating Israeli and Palestinian security services in the general context of the application of autonomy in the occupied territories. In June 1994, Dahlan was named head of the Palestinian preventive security services in Gaza, while Rajub obtained the same post in the West Bank. Dahlan participated in numerous negotiations with Israeli and American heads of security services, who appreciated his intelligence and his determination to counteract extremist Palestinian groups.

In July of 2000, Dahlan took part in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. On the following 26 September, accompanied by Saib Erekat, he met secretly with Shlomo Ben-Ami in Washington, D.C., to discuss steps to restart the peace process. In the autumn, while the Intifada was intensifying in the Palestinian territories, Dahlan—torn between his personal convictions and his security duties in the Gaza Strip—attempted to channel widespread resentment into a coherent movement. On 21 November 2000, Ariel Sharon, the head of the Israeli Likud Party, accused Dahlan of responsibility for an attack on Jewish settlers in Gaza and called for his removal. After Sharon took office as prime minister, an attempt was made on Dahlan's life. Dahlan was one of the key people who ran the Palestinian Authority (PA) government during Arafat's captivity in Ramallah in March–May 2002, and he was security chief in the short-lived PA administration of Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas. Dahlan is on record as favoring reform in the Palestinian Authority, including consolidation of PA security services. Although he has been regarded as a potential successor of Arafat, he has said, "As long as the Israelis are against Arafat, I'm with him." Dahlan, an ally of Mahmud Abbas, general secretary of the PLO returned to Arafat's favor, would perhaps succeed Arafat in tandem with the older Abbas. However, he would probably not be acceptable to HAMAS, which opposes PLO policies but has not attacked it while Arafat has been in power. In early 2004, Dahlan was reported to have been maneuvering to take charge of security in the West Bank as well as in Gaza, pitting him directly against Jibril Rajub, but he denied that this was true.

SEE ALSO Abbas, Mahmud Rida; Arafat, Yasir; Ben-Ami, Shlomo; Erekat, Saib; Fatah, al-; HAMAS; Intifada (1987–1993); National Unified Uprising Command; Rajub, Jibril; Sharon, Ariel; Wazir, Khalil al-.

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