- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2007

TEL AVIV — Mohammad Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief with close ties to the U.S., resigned as Palestinian national security adviser yesterday after he was blamed for allowing Hamas‘ seizure of the coastal strip.

Mr. Dahlan cited health reasons in his resignation letter, but Palestinian analysts said he was pressured to step down after Fatah forces failed to block Hamas‘ takeover of the Gaza Strip last month. He reportedly mailed in his resignation from a hospital in the former Yugoslavia.

Mr. Dahlan is a former chief of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service in Gaza.

At times, he was mentioned as a candidate to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as leader of the Fatah party and as Palestinian president.

Most of Mr. Dahlan’s protegees in Gaza succumbed in the face of the Hamas offensive in June, and many fled. When Hamas consolidated power, Mr. Dahlan’s estate in Gaza was looted. In some respects, his demise parallels the fortunes of his party and the embattled Palestinian government.

“I believe that Dahlan is leaving the political realm forever,” said Nashat Aqtash, a communications professor at Birziet University. “He’s no longer the strongman of Gaza. He lost the war, so it’s normal for him to resign. He was blamed for losing the war.”

Mr. Abbas appointed a committee to investigate what allowed Hamas to take power so easily. The Palestinian president already had dismissed Mr. Dahlan’s deputy, Rashid Abu Shabak.

Mr. Abbas told reporters in Ramallah yesterday that he doesn’t plan to run for re-election when his term expires in about a year and a half. He wants to have elections for a new parliament before then, but his Fatah party has been unable to stop the infighting that has turned it into an anemic political force.

Mr. Dahlan, considered part of the young generation of Fatah leaders with grass-roots support that Mr. Abbas lacks, became a favorite of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the late 1980s. Considered a moderate capable of cementing peace with Israel, he attended the 2000 Camp David Peace Summit as part of Mr. Arafat’s negotiating team.

Among Palestinians, he also had a reputation for corruption in his security forces and business dealings. Though his origins were on the streets of Gaza, Mr. Dahlan preferred a natty style of dress that gave him an image of aloofness.

Scott Lasensky, a Middle East specialist at the U.S. Institute for Peace, said Mr. Dahlan’s fall underscores the need to promote “ideas and issues” rather than political personalities.

“The view from the outside is that he appeared to have very close and very positive relations with both the Clinton and the Bush administrations, some suggested too close,” he said.

Dahlan was representative of this whole question of the trade-off between expedience in negotiations and good governance.”