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October 18, 2002 No.
430

Interview with Palestinian Security Chief Dahlan: Warns Hamas and Raises Allegations of an American-Palestinian Deal Regarding Arafat's Responsibility for the 'Karin A'

In an interview published on October 16 in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, Muhammad Dahlan, who resigned last Monday from his position as PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's National Security Advisor, and who since the establishment of the PA served as the head of the Preventive Security Apparatus in the Gaza Strip, sharply criticized the Hamas movement, as well as Arafat's leadership. The following day, Dahlan denied the comments that were attributed to him.[1] The following are excerpts from the interview:

PA - Hamas Dispute
Ibrahim Hamidi, a correspondent for the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat in Damascus, reported the following:

"Colonel Muhammad Dahlan, the former advisor on security matters for President Arafat, sharply criticized the Islamic resistance movement Hamas and threatened that 'in response to the burning of any PA police station by Hamas, he will burn down all the Hamas centers, [Saying:] we have goons just as the Hamas have goons.' Dahlan said that Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi, one of the leaders of [the Hamas] movement, is 'a walking civil strife, and an ignoramus. Who does he think he is? The Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban?'"

The Alleged 'Karin A' Deal
"Dahlan revealed that Palestinian leaders agreed with the Americans that Secretary of State Colin Powell would declare that the Karin A ship was heading to Hizbullah and not to the PA. 'The Americans wanted a senior Palestinian to declare that if it is proven that anyone from the PA was involved in the operation, we would settle the account with him. But because we are so smart, we said: 'Powell cleared us from the ship affair.' The Americans realized that they are facing a gang or a mafia, and this was what caused the explosion of the crisis with the Americans and created a big diplomatic scandal.'"

The Palestinian Leadership Compared with Ben Gurion
According to Hamidi, in a meeting of the Businessmen Association in Gaza on Sunday evening, Dahlan spoke to a group of journalists who were told not to take notes. However, sources close to the PA sent the Al-Hayat office in Damascus four pages of notes that included, in their view, the most important statement made by Dahlan.

"[Dahlan] revealed that following the events of September 11, he sent a report to President Arafat suggesting that 'we leave the Intifada behind us. The Intifada is the means, not the purpose... We should have turned it into a popular Intifada and stopped the armed activity, but we didn't, because we don't have the courage, as a leadership, to do so.'"

"After he said that the Palestinian people is 'a mob that opts to extremism and rejection,' Dahlan added: 'The Palestinian leadership must force its decisions on the people, in some issue, even if it has to use a stick.' He said that Ben Gurion, 'the most important statesman in the history of the Israeli state, agreed to the establishment of a state without Jerusalem, just in order to establish a [political] entity and then to strengthen it. He agreed to resolution 181, made the decision, and announced the establishment of Israel, even though many Israelis objected to that. We can force a [certain] faction to stop launching mortar shells, because the Israelis are bulldozing 200 dunums in response. Had Arafat declared a state without Jerusalem, he would have been labeled 'a traitor,' even by the Fatah.'"

"Dahlan added: 'The Palestinian leadership missed no opportunity to make mistakes... The Palestinian people has the peculiar ability to die a martyr's death and to [be] steadfast. There are two streams in the PA: Those who say the people can suffer and [are] steadfast, and those who say the people has collapsed. Both are wrong. The people can suffer if its sacrifice will be politically rewarded.'"

On Hamas - PA Relations
"On relations with Hamas, Dahlan said that 'there is a [growing] feeling in the Hamas that the PA is not worthy of surviving... We sat and recalled our experience with Hamas, and decided that we will not let Hamas get the feeling that this is a good opportunity to eliminate the PA.'"

"Dahlan added: 'we have a red line. Palestinian society will not be dragged into domestic fighting. The (12 Hamas men accused of killing Colonel Abu Lihya of the PA) must be caught,[2] as well as anybody who assisted and planned this heinous crime. We will not back away from this [demand] even if a conflict breaks. We gave up the idea of [Hamas] turning in [the 12 suspects] and said, 'no need'... but they must not resist when we want to arrest someone. [In response] to the burning of a PA police station, we will burn down all the Hamas centers. We have goons just as they have goons. If we do not feel that the Hamas is serious, we will start arresting.'"[3]

Jihad Al-Khazen, a columnist for Al-Hayat and close friend of Dahlan, frequently reports conversations he has with Dahlan in his daily column. Al-Khazen wrote on the impasse between Hamas and the PA following the demand to turn in the suspected killers of Colonel Abu Lihya. Al-Khazen talked with "two friends from the most senior ranks in both Hamas and the PA."

Since Al-Khazen often reports on his meetings with Dahlan, it is most likely that the following statements are also Dahlan's.

Al-Khazen wrote: "the second position [that of the PA official, apparently Dahlan] surprised me in its harshness. He insisted on the turning in of 'Aql [the Hamas activist] no matter what and even threatened to grab him by force, even if it leads to armed confrontation with Hamas in all of the Gaza Strip."

"The senior [PA official, apparently Dahlan]... said: 'this is not a case of tribal [blood vengeance]. Twelve men participated in the kidnapping [and murder of the PA officer]. The entire 'Aql family has only 6 men. Dr. Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi claimed responsibility for the operation. They will not turn us into idiots. If they turn in the boy ['Aql] - fine. If not, I'll not leave a single Hamas institution standing.'"

"'We will not allow anyone to permit the blood of any of us [in the Palestinian security forces]. If the boy who took the shot is not turned in, I will kill him and leave his family with another case of blood vengeance. Hamas - and not the boy 'Imad 'Aql - kidnapped a PA officer from the street. They broke his legs and arms and killed him. Maybe they think the PA is finished, but we are not finished - not the Preventive Security Apparatus and not the Tanzim [Fatah].'"

"'There is no compromise solution, either they turn in the boy or we eradicate Hamas. I will not allow another PA officer to be shot by Hamas in the street. Eight [people] from Hamas murdered two policemen once. We let them go, but I can put them back [in jail]. Dr. Maqadma murdered two policemen. We let him go but I can put him back in jail and execute him. We can have ten [people] shoot Al-Rantisi and then sentence them [only] to life in prison.'"

"'We were soft on Hamas. They caused us problems with the Americans and the Israelis and after all this they treat us as if we were idiots. They burnt down police stations and said: 'the people burnt them down.' We will get the people out [on the street] to burn all the Hamas centers down.'"

"'If they demanded that all the accused [from the PA side] would be sentenced, we demand the same, but the turning in of the boy is not related to any other issue [i.e. does not depend on trying PA members suspected in killing Hamas people]. Either they turn him in or we [will be] coming to get him.'"

"'Hamas killed a young man [Colonel Abu Lihya of the PA] who participated in all our battles since September 2000 and until today. I will teach them a lesson from now to eternity. I swear by your father's life, write this down that if Hamas burns down a police station, I will burn down 50 of their centers. If they want national unity, they must also pay its price, not only us.'"

Al-Khazen wrote that the things he refrained from publishing were "twice as harsh."[4]


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Aswat (London), October 17, 2002.

[2] Dahlan was speaking against the backdrop of renewed clashes between Hamas and the PA's security forces. Following the terror attacks of September 11, the PA police killed two men in an attempt to prevent Hamas supporters from parading in support of Osama bin Laden. One of the casualties was 'Yousef 'Aql. His family and Hamas accused Palestinian police officer Colonel Rajeh Abu Lihya of committing the actual killing. Last week, Colonel Abu Lihya was kidnapped and brutally murdered, reportedly by the son of Yousef 'Aql, a member of Hamas's military wing the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, who also goes by the name 'Imad Aql.

[3] Al-Hayat (London), October 16, 2002.

[4] Al-Hayat (London), October 16, 2002.