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When Palestinian Politics Get Personal

3:20 PM, Jan 26, 2012 • By JONATHAN SCHANZER
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Dahlan opened a TV station, Falastin al-Ghad (or Palestine Tomorrow), in the West Bank that year. By 2010, however, Abbas had shut it down. Amid allegations that Dahlan was maneuvering to succeed him, Abbas ordered an investigation into allegations that Dahlan had embezzled public funds. Palestinian Authority security forces also questioned Fatah members over reports that Dahlan was forming a militia. By December 2010, Abbas had Dahlan’s membership in Fatah’s central committee suspended.

In January 2011, Dahlan bravely traveled to Ramallah to face a commission investigating his alleged embezzlement and attempted coup. Predictably, Dahlan denied all the claims against him, and as one Abbas aide confided, the spat could be distilled down to “a personal or business dispute… many of the reports that talked about a coup are exaggerated.”

But the probe did not end. In April 2011, Fatah announced a new investigation alleging that Dahlan provided Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi with weapons to repel the uprising that soon spiraled into the Libyan civil war.

By June 2011, Abbas had shuttered a number of Dahlan’s political websites, and expelled Dahlan from Fatah. In response, Dahlan boldly stated on Al-Hayat TV that, “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] can shove it.” The following month, Abbas arrested 15 of Dahlan’s supporters, and Palestinian security forces raided Dahlan’s villa in Ramallah, arresting more than 20 security guards, and confiscating two cars and more than a dozen weapons.  This was widely viewed as illegal, since it ignored Dahlan's immunity as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Irate, Dahlan fired back, alleging that Abbas stole over $1 billion from the Palestine Investment fund, a sovereign wealth vehicle. The Abbas camp responded with a 118-page report alleging that Dahlan had stolen $300 million in aid from the United States, and poisoned Arafat.

While Dahlan remained a popular figure in Fatah, it soon became clear that Abbas had gained the upper hand. In August 2011, an official noted that Dahlan’s expulsion from Fatah “is now final. It can’t be appealed or canceled.”

For now, Dahlan has reportedly found refuge in the UAE, where the ruling elites have reportedly grown tired with the Palestinian president’s personal vendettas. Abbas’s tenacious pursuit of him makes it hard for Dahlan to return to Ramallah, Amman, or Cairo—the other places he calls home. New reports also suggest that other Middle East states may soon move on Dahlan’s assets.

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