Israel: U.S. sees Gaza strong-man Dahlan as Arafat heir
By: Aluf Benn
Against the backdrop of a new round of intense U.S.-led diplomatic activity
over the Middle East, Israeli sources close to the administration claim that
the U.S. now regards Mohammed Dahlan, head of the Palestinian Preventive
Security forces in Gaza, as a leading candidate to head that new security
structure - and possibly step into line as Arafat's heir.
Dahlan was in Washington last week, as were intelligence chiefs from Israel,
Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, for meetings with Tenet.
While in Washington, say Israeli sources, Dahlan made a strong positive
impression on National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, while Mohammed
Rashid, Yasser Arafat's financial adviser, failed to impress his American
interlocutors, especially after reports came out that he had reached an
agreement with the Americans that he would run the reform program for the
The latest round of U.S. diplomatic efforts begins Thursday with the arrival
of Egyptian presidential adviser Osama Al Baz in Israel, as his boss, Hosni
Mubarak, prepares to leave for the U.S. for two days of talks with President
George W. Bush at Camp David on June 7 and 8.
Al Baz will meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Shimon
Peres, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Minister Tzipi Livni.
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs William Burns
also arrives today for meetings with Sharon, Peres and Ben-Eliezer.
Over the weekend Burns will be joined by CIA Director George Tenet, who is
coming for talks with both Israeli and Palestinian officials. His focus will
be on restructuring the Palestinian security services, unifying the dozen
existing forces into a much smaller number of forces under a unified command
with strong civilian controls.