New crisis between Arafat, Abu Mazen over appointment of new interior minister could result in Dahlan’s removal
A Palestinian official confirmed that discussions have been going on within Fatah’s central committee about the appointment of General Naser Yousef – experienced in dealing with the Islamic factions - as Palestinian Minister of Interior. Should his appointment succeed, observers say it would mean the removal of the current Palestinian Minster of State for security affairs - Mohammad Dahlan.
However, the committee has suspended the discussions it started Saturday night over the matter due to the refusal by Arafat to grant Naser full authority over Palestinian security affairs, which the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is demanding.
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member and Fatah leader - Hatem Abdel Qader - told Al Bawaba that consultations were ongoing and that the appointment of an interior minister was proposed by a neighboring Arab country, referring to Egypt. President Mubarak has sent advisor Osama al Baz to Ramallah to meet Arafat. Baz will be working on trying to convince the Palestinian president to delegate some of his authority on security affairs to his Prime Minister.
The PLC member said, “The Arab thinking is in favor of unifying the various security apparatuses, which allows for simpler and easier implementation of the security policy...and it seems this has been conveyed to the PA.” He also added “the decision to appoint an interior minister [to consolidate the different security tasks] will certainly spur Dahlan to resign from his current post, as the new minister will assume all of Dahlan’s current duties and powers.”
Upon assuming his post as Prime Minister last April, Abu Mazen kept the portfolio of interior minister to himself, however delegated this authority to his Minister of State for Security Affairs - Mohammad Dahlan. For their part, both Tel Aviv and Washington pressed Abu Mazen to strengthen the various security departments within the PA by merging them together. This would have allowed them to better handle the proposed dismantling of the infrastructures of the Islamic factions, as they were perceived to be too weak to carry out that task separately.
Israeli sources said that some officials within the Bush administration showed their dissatisfaction with the way the PA dealt with the Islamic factions.
Moreover, with Arafat’s ongoing refusal to appoint Dahlan as minister of interior, and the growing American and Israeli pressure towards merging the security departments, it now seem that Abu Mazen has no choice but to do without Dahlan for the time being.
A Palestinian official who has requested anonymity told Al Bawaba “Abu Mazen has agreed in principle to appointing an interior minister, provided that the responsibility for overseeing the intelligence and the national security agency, currently under Arafat, be immediately transferred to the new minister. With this condition, Abu Mazen will be bartering Dahlan for the authority to control the two security apparatuses with the help of the new minister.”
However, Arafat has refused to relinquish his control over these two departments, something that has delayed a final decision on the issue.
Earlier, reports claimed that both Abu Mazen and Dahlan have threatened to resign should Arafat push towards appointing Yousef as Minister of Interior, while conflicting reports claim that Dahlan was advised by his close aides to resign should Yousef take the portfolio of the PA’s Minister of Interior.
Nonetheless, Dahlan’s press secretary Elias al Zananiri denied he would resign and expressed his optimism that the problem would be solved soon.
Yousef played a pivotal role in the PA’s arrest of several Hamas leaders and activists following the wave of attacks carried out by the Islamic movement in 1996. He is known to have good relations with both the Americans and the Egyptians.