EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A possible ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, may be about more than ending the ongoing, escalating violence that threatens to spark yet another Gaza war. It could also be an attempt to pave the way for the return of Muhammad Dahlan as successor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
United Arab Emirates-backed Egyptian and UN efforts to mediate an agreement between Israel and Hamas, with nemesis Qatar in the background, are about not only preventing months-long weekly protests along the line that divides Gaza and Israel and repeated rocket and kite-mounted incendiary device attacks on Israel that provoke Israeli military strikes in response. They also constitute yet another round in an Israeli-supported effort to politically, economically, and militarily weaken Hamas and pave the way for the possible return of Abu Dhabi-based former Palestinian security chief Muhammad Dahlan as successor to ailing PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Ironically, Israeli discussions with representatives of Qatar, which has long supported Hamas, constitute recognition of the utility of Qatar’s longstanding relations with Islamists and militants – relations that the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Bahrain cited as the reason for their 15-month-old diplomatic and economic boycott of the Gulf state.
Israel and Egypt have agreed that Qatar would pay the salaries of tens of thousands of government employees in Gaza. Abbas has refused to pay those salaries as part of an Israeli-UAE-Saudi-backed effort to undermine Hamas’s control of Gaza and give the PA a key role in its administration. Moreover, in response to Abbas’s demand, Israel reduced electricity supplies, leaving Gazans with only three to four hours of power a day.