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Dahlan met with Israeli minister throughout 2014: reports

Palestinian and Israeli sources say banished Fatah strongman Dahlan met several times with politician rumoured to be Israeli Foreign Minister
Dahlan is a former security minister who has lived in the UAE since his 2011 banishment from the West Bank (AFP)

Israeli newspapers were abuzz on Sunday with reports that a high-level Israeli minister held secret meetings over the course of 2014 with Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan, a key rival to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to Israeli news site Walla, the politicians held a series of meetings in luxury hotels in European capitals.

The Times of Israel corroborated the story, citing Palestinian and Israeli sources who said meetings had been held in “at least two” major European cities in 2014.

According to the site, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to send Mahmoud Abbas a letter to assure him that these meetings were undertaken without his knowledge, and did not represent the stance of the Israeli government.

Dahlan, who has lived in the UAE since his 2011 banishment from the West Bank, is a former Security Minister in the West Bank government who now faces a raft of accusations levelled by arch-rival Mahmoud Abbas, including embezzlement and involvement in the suspicious death of Yasser Arafat in 2004.

In a separate report, Israeli news site Maariv reported that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saw in the New Year at a luxury hotel in Paris, the Hotel Raphael, in the company of an unnamed top-level Arab official.

According to the report, penned by prominent Israeli columnist Ben Caspit, the meeting took place with the knowledge of the Israeli government, and all those present were made to sign confidentiality agreements.

Caspit later wrote in the Jerusalem Post that he believed Lieberman’s New Year meeting was not with Dahlan, due to the presence of figures from Mossad, Israel’s intelligence and counter-terrorism body that answers directly to the country’s Prime Minister.

However, Arabic-language news sites on Sunday reported that Lieberman was the Israeli minister who held secret meetings with Dahlan throughout 2014.

According to Arabi21, Lieberman held a secret meeting with an Arab official in the Swiss city of Bern three months ago, and “one can safely assume that” that meeting was with Dahlan.

Israeli news sites reported that Lieberman had “disappeared” from the public scene for a 48-hour period in March, according to London-based news site al-Araby al-Jadeed.

On his return, the minister’s office confirmed that Lieberman had been conducting “sensitive diplomatic meetings,” refusing to give more details as to whom he met.

Lieberman’s office has not commented on these reports at the time of publication.

Lieberman is currently embroiled in what The Independent has called “one of the largest corruption scandals in Israeli history.”

Several of Lieberman’s key aides and advisors have been arrested or questioned during a wide-ranging police investigation ahead of snap elections scheduled for March 2015, in which Lieberman had been expected to win a significant share of the votes.

In a new blow to Lieberman’s election hopes, it was reported on Sunday that police had discovered 13 million Israeli shekels (some $3.3m) in suspicious funds in the bank accounts of one of the minister’s key advisors.

Sunday’s reports of secret meetings between UAE resident Mohammed Dahlan and a high-level Israeli minister, rumoured to be Avigdor Lieberman, come after an MEE exclusive found that a private jet regularly carries out secret flights between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.