Mohammed Dahlan is the man with two faces in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. He portrays himself to the media as a politician with a considerable impact of the future of Palestine. His history traces back to his early years in the PLO and senior position with leader Yasser Arafat. Dahlan maintains this significant historical timeline for Palestine, especially Gaza despite his exile, corruption trials and constant attacks from the opposing Hamas side.
Despite his actual history as a strongman and mercenary for foreign nations, he plays up his ties to Israel, Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to project the image of a charming patriot, who never misses an opportunity to help his homeland. He is often the bearer of gifts, whether it be vaccines or cash payments. Dahlan is careful to maintain his image as a facilitator of the humanitarian aid even without any official political position. That image plays better outside Gaza where Dahlan’s involvement in planning the Israeli-Arab normalization process included the abandonment of the two-state solution and the ignoring of Palestinian hopes, which ignited hatred towards him. Depending on the pollster, Dahlan’s support can be as little as 10% as in this March 2021 survey by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR). Is Dahlan the next savior of Palestine? Not according to Palestinians.
The second face of Mohammed Dahlan is much darker. He is, by all media accounts, one of the major forces behind the insidious and brutal extinguishment of hope not in just Palestine but across the entire of North Africa, Gulf and Middle East. Dahlan was explicitly tasked and paid to frustrate and end democracies created in the Arab Spring. From Tunisia to Egypt and from Libya to Yemen, he has been active in diminishing populist attempts to replace dictators with democratic mechanisms. His efforts are a direct result of the UAE’s policy and fears towards the spread of popular rule. Something the Abu Dhabi family calls “political Islam”. This tiny, natural resources-rich kingdom has been prioritizing its archaic form of family dictatorship, knowing that any democratic evolution in the Middle East could bring an end to their grasp on oil revenue.
These two faces may be one and the same, since Hamas is very much a political Islamist outfit. The financial and political influence cultivated by the UAE to target Palestinians is unusual in its duplicity. Dahlan may be the public face used to hide the real face.