About Collaborators, Agents, and Spies

March 24, 2014

Alan Hart   Intifada Palestine

Could there be an Israeli takeover of the Palestine Authority?

On the face of it that’s a silly question and the speculation it represents — that Palestinian “President” Abbas could be replaced by an Israeli agent or asset — is not worthy of discussion. But before dismissing it readers might do what I did and consider two things.

The first is that Mohammed Dahlan, formerly one of the most powerful Fatah leaders and almost certainly the one who administered for Israel the polonium that killed Arafat, is now putting a big effort into getting rid of Abbas by one means or another and replacing him with — guess who? — himself.

Mohammed Dahlan 1

In passing it is interesting to note that according to a recent report in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, Netanyahu’s special envoy, Yitzhak Molcho, is in a secret dialogue with Dahlan who spends his time shuttling between Cairo and the U.A.E. where he currently lives. One assumption has to be that Netanyahu is hoping that if Dahlan became President of the PA he would go much further than collaborator Abbas in delivering for Israel. (Also worth noting is that Dahlan speaks fluent Hebrew. He learned to do so during his 11 spells in Israeli jails between 1981 and 1986).

The second consideration is Israel’s track record in successfully placing its agents inside Arab institutions and organizations at very high levels.

I’ll give two examples to make the point but first a note on the need for some precision with the terminology. In the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the terms collaborator and agent or asset are not necessarily one and the same.

At leadership level a collaborator is a Palestinian who, out of weakness and to protect his own position and interests, is prepared to do more or less what is required of him by Israel and the US, but who does it with reluctance (and may even have a problem sleeping at night for doing it). In that light it can be said that Abbas and many of his leadership colleagues have been collaborators with Israel and America.

An agent or asset is a Palestinian who serves Israel’s purposes with enthusiasm in order to advance his own interests (and probably does not have a problem sleeping at night). Dahlan’s record suggests that he is an Israeli agent or asset. (He is also well connected to the intelligence services of the US, Egypt, and some Gulf monarchies). But more of this in a moment.

One of the most successful Israeli agents was Eli Cohen. His devout Jewish and Zionist father was from Aleppo in Syria and moved to Alexandria in Egypt where Eli was born in 1924.

Eli Cohen’s role in the first half of the 1960′s for Mossad and Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence was to insert himself into Syria’s political and military establishments at the highest level. To do this he posed as a Syrian businessman returning from Argentina where he went to create his cover. (While he was in Argentina he had unlimited funds available for the purpose of taking care of all the needs of visiting Syrian leaders and businessmen. Their needs included whores, alcohol and loans).

In Syria Israeli spy Eli Cohen became Chief Adviser to the Minister of Defense. And there were some in the top levels of Israel’s intelligence community who entertained the thought that their man could perhaps go all the way and become Syria’s president.

As it happened it all ended badly for Eli Cohen. In January 1965, with some assistance from Soviet experts, Syrian counter-intelligence officers uncovered his spying activities; and on 18 May 1965 he was publicly hanged in the Marieh Square in Damascus.

Eli Cohen 1

Because Eli Cohen’s work is classified we will probably never know the details of the information he provided for his Israeli masters about Syria’s military capabilities and intentions, but there’s a quite widely held view that attacking and taking the Golan Heights might not have been on Israel’s 1967 war agenda but for the information Eli Cohen provided about how they were defended. (On my reporting trips to Israel in the long countdown to the Six Days War I had conversations with visiting military experts from all over the world who were convinced by their own observations from afar that the Golan Heights were “impregnable” and, therefore, that Israel would not attempt to capture them when war came).

My second example to illustrate Israel’s ability to call the shots on the Arab side is what happened inside Abu Nidal’s organization.

Abu Nidal (Sabri Khalil al-Banna) broke with Fatah in 1974 and set up his Baghdad-based terrorist organization because he was fiercely opposed to Arafat’s pragmatic policy of politics and compromise with Israel. Among those assassinated by Abu Nidal’s hit men were about 20 of Arafat’s peace envoys. They were Palestinians Arafat trusted to tell European and other leaders behind closed doors what he could not then say in public himself — that he really was moving the PLO to a compromise and a two-state peace with Israel.

Under Arafat’s direction, Abu Iyad, then in charge of Fatah’s security, conducted a lengthy and detailed investigation into how Abu Nidal’s organization worked. The findings, which they subsequently shared with me, were that Abu Nidal was an alcoholic — he drank at least one bottle of whisky a day — and his number two, the man who was masterminding the assassination of Arafat’s envoys, was an Israeli agent.

Abu Nidal

Abu Nidal was shot dead in Baghdad in August 2002. Palestinian sources said he was taken out on the order of Saddam Hussein. His government’s public story was that Abu Nidal had committed suicide. My guess was that Arafat or Abu Iyad said to Saddam, “Kill him.”

Before we return to Mohammed Dahlan, I’ll share with readers what Arafat told me about his biggest fear. It was that Syria would follow Egypt and Jordan and make peace with Israel if it was wise enough to withdraw from and return the Golan Heights. I asked Arafat what would be so frightening about that if it happened. He replied to the effect that Syria would then join forces with Jordan and Egypt to compel the Palestinians to accept whatever crumbs Zionism was prepared to offer them.

My speculation (and I repeat speculation) is that if Mohammed Dahlan became PA President, he would be prepared to use force as necessary to impose Israel’s terms for peace on the Palestinians.

Dahlan demonstrated his enthusiasm for doing Israeli and American dirty work when, at the request of the Bush administration, he agreed to lead a military campaign to destroy Hamas after its election victory in 2006. The Bush administration provided Dahlan with money and arms and trained his Fatah fighters in a number of Arab countries.

Mohammed Dahlan 2

But it all went badly wrong for Dahlan and his sponsors. Hamas got wind of what Dahlan (fronting for the Bush administration and Israel) was intending and launched an Israeli-like pre-emptive strike. It destroyed Fatah’s security forces based in the Gaza Strip (which had been Dahlan’s base) and put Fatah politically out of business there.

Commenting on what had happened in the Gaza Strip, Hani al-Hassan, for many years Arafat’s crisis manager and one of his two most trusted advisers, said it was “not a war between Fatah and Hamas but between Hamas and Fatah collaborators who served the Americans and the Israelis.”

Subsequently the Bush administration exerted heavy pressure on Abbas (which he resisted) to appoint Dahlan as his deputy. And some Palestinian officials said that the US and a number of European countries had made it clear that they would like Dahlan to succeed Abbas as head of the PA. They presumably believed then, as Netanyahu might well do today, that Dahlan as President would use whatever means were necessary to compel the Palestinians to make peace on Israel’s terms.

Shortly after his forces were expelled from the Gaza Strip, Dahlan re-established himself in the West Bank. And thereafter tensions between his Fatah supporters and opponents grew and grew.

In June 2011 he was expelled from Fatah because of the assumption that he had delivered for Israel whatever it was that poisoned Arafat. Three months later Abbas ordered a raid on Dahlan’s house and the arrest of his private armed guards.

Today in exile, and consulting with his allies in Sisi’s Egypt and some Gulf monarchies as well as Israel and the US, Dahlan is plotting his comeback to replace Abbas by one means or another.

The Ma’ariv article I mentioned above wrote about Dahlan claiming, that he and not Abbas could be counted on to bring peace, and that in 2010 he reportedly sent a letter to the Obama administration in which he said: “There is no choice but to replace Abbas with someone who can deliver results.”

Because Dahlan must know that Israel’s leaders are not remotely interested in peace on terms the Palestinians could accept, I think it is reasonable to assume that the result he has in mind is peace imposed on Israel’s terms — effectively a Palestinian surrender to Zionism’s will.

Is a Dahlan/Israeli takeover of the PA really possible?

An indication that Abbas seems to think it cannot be ruled out was his request to President Obama that he press Israel to include Marwan Barghouti in the fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners due to be released at the end of this month. (Prisoner release was one of the inducements to secure Abbas’s green light for Secretary of State Kerry to launch his “peace process”. But today Netanyahu is under mounting pressure from the neo-fascist factions to the right of him to say NO to any further prisoner releases).

Marwan Barghouti

Barghouti is by far the most popular Palestinian leader and he would easily win an election to replace Abbas as President. And that, of course, is precisely why Israel won’t release him. So if Abbas can be bullied and bribed by Israel and the US into lifting the ban on Dahlan’s return from exile to the occupied West Bank, he, Dahlan, could be in with a chance. In my view a victory for him would be the final betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Further reading:

Yasser Arafat 2


Dr. Joseph Massad   Intifada Palestine

The recent resurrection of Mohammad Dahlan by several Arab governments, Israel and the US is a most important development for the future of the Palestinian cause, Palestinian Authority-Israel negotiations, and Hamas-ruled Gaza. Dahlan is viewed, by many Palestinians, as the most corrupt official in the history of the Palestinian national movement (and there are many contenders for that title).

Dahlan, it would be recalled, was the PA man in charge of Gaza after the Oslo Accords were signed, where he commanded 20,000 Palestinian security personnel who were answerable to the CIA and to Israeli intelligence. His forces would torture Hamas members in PA dungeons throughout the 1990s.

His corruption, at the time, was such that he allegedly diverted over 40 percent of taxes levied against the Palestinians to his personal account in what became known as the Karni Crossing Scandal in 1997.

Dahlan, who has been accused repeatedly by both Hamas and Fatah of being an agent of US, Israeli, Egyptian, and Jordanian intelligence, would attempt to stage a US-organized coup against the democratically elected Hamas government in 2007 in Gaza, an attempt that backfired on him and ended with his eviction from the Strip.

A simultaneous coup led by Abbas and his Israeli- and US-backed security forces in the West Bank was successful in dislodging the elected Hamas from power. Dahlan retreated to that mainstay of US and Israeli power, namely the PA-controlled West Bank, where he began to hatch new plots with his multiple patrons to undermine not only Hamas but also Abbas, whose position he begrudged and coveted.

Indeed the Americans and the European Union (the latter on US orders) began to pressure Abbas to appoint Dahlan as his deputy, making it clear that they would like to see Dahlan succeed Abbas. Abbas resisted the pressure and refused.

In the meantime, Dahlan, has been accused by Hamas and the PA of allegedly plotting several assassination attempts of Palestinian officials, including Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyah and Fatah ministers in the PA. Accusations that he persistently denied. His involvement in the 2010 Mossad assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai included having two of his Palestinian death squad hit men (later arrested by Dubai authorities) assist in the operation, a charge he also denied. His personal wealth was conservatively estimated in 2005 by an Israeli think tank at 120 million US$.

Once Dahlan’s schemes became too obvious to ignore, Abbas stripped him of power and chased him out of the Ramallah Green Zone in 2010. He moved to Mubarak’s Egypt and later, following the ouster of Mubarak, to Dubai (and on occasion Europe) where he remained until his more recent resurrection by the heirs of Mubarak who now sit on Egypt’s throne.

A man for all patrons

Dahlan’s power lies in his ability to serve the agenda of multiple patrons. For the Israelis, he is a ruthless, corrupt power-grubbing man who would do their bidding obediently were he to come to power in Gaza or the West Bank. Both the Americans and the Israelis see him as especially willing to sign on an American-sponsored Netanyahu deal without equivocation.

For the Egyptians and the Gulf monarchies (and he is said to be a business partner with a Gulf ruler), he would look after their interests and obey their orders by eliminating any resistance to a US-imposed Palestinian final surrender to Israel and by eliminating Hamas once and for all.

For the Egyptian coup leaders, whose coup replicated Dahlan’s 2007 Gaza coup, except successfully, he could rid them of Hamas, which they see as an extension of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood, and render their relations with Israel even closer than they already are. Dahlan’s most important role, however, is the one that the Americans need him for, namely, to replace Abbas should the latter fail to sign on to the final surrender that Barack Obama and John Kerry have been cooking at the behest of Netanyahu in the past few months.

Just as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton terminated the services of Arafat after the latter proved unable to sign off on the final Palestinian surrender demanded of him at Camp David in the summer of 2000 (an inability that would arguably cost him his life at the hands of Abbas or Dahlan, acting at the behest of the Israelis), Obama will terminate the services of Abbas should he fail to sign the US-sponsored surrender. Indeed, even if Abbas does sign such a deal, as he is approaching his 80th birthday, Dahlan will be needed and ready to take over after his death.

It is in this context that Egyptian army top brass recently visited Israel for a whole week while the Egyptian private TV station Dream (owned by a Mubarak businessman ally, Ahmad Bahgat) aired an interview with Dahlan in which he attacked Abbas, in yet another effort to delegitimize the latter.

Dahlan was offered the support of the rightwing Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris (infamous for his cutting off cellular phone lines in Cairo during the Egyptian uprising in January 2011 on the orders of Mubarak’s security apparatus), who sang Dahlan’s praises (as well as those of Mohammad Rashid, aka Khaled Salam, a former Arafat aide and another allegedly corrupt embezzling fugitive) as one of the most honest businessmen he ever worked with and then proceeded to denounce Abbas as a “liar”.

The takeover plan

As an Egyptian court has recently joined Israel and the US in banning Hamas from the country and considering it a terrorist organization and as the Israelis have threatened openly this week that an invasion of Gaza will be necessary, the plan for a Dahlan take-over is hatching slowly but surely. This is viewed as such a threat that Abbas dispatched his supporters and cronies to the streets of Ramallah to prove to the Americans and the Israelis that he still commands much support in the West Bank.

The competition between Abbas and Dahlan is essentially one where each of them wants to prove that he can be more servile to Israeli, US, Egyptian, and Gulf interests while maintaining legitimacy and full control of the Palestinian population.

The details of the plot are not clear. They could involve an invasion of Gaza from the Egyptian and the Israeli sides (and Egyptian officials have already threatened to carry out such an invasion a few weeks ago), a coup of sorts in the West Bank, and even assassinations of Haniyyah and/or Abbas.

All bets are off at the moment, as Abbas is offering obedience to the US and Israeli diktat, willing to go much farther than Arafat, yet still understanding well that he would lose all legitimacy and control were he to sign the final humiliating surrender that the US and Israel are insisting on. Dahlan of course will have no such worries.

As for Hamas, which, unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, is a resistance movement and not a political party, it cannot be rounded up or crushed so easily, and the entry of Dahlan into Gaza, let alone the West Bank, will usher in a civil war that could likely end in his defeat yet again, short of a full Israeli invasion of Gaza to return him to power (Dahlan has also been accused by the PA of collaborating with the Israelis in their 2008 invasion of Gaza).

The same scenario would be repeated in the West Bank.

The future of the Palestinian people is in danger and the enemies of the Palestinians surround them inside and outside Palestine. The Obama-Israeli-Egyptian-Gulf plans for liquidating their cause and their rights continue afoot.

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