SUSPECTED SCHOOL BUS BOMBER DAHLAN STILL PLAYING PROMINENT ROLE IN PA LEADERSHIP
Same Old Terrorism
Despite the efforts by the United States to weaken Yassir Arafat's position in the Palestinian Authority with the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas ("Abu Mazen") to serve as Prime Minister, several other figures deeply involved in terrorism are still serving in the Palestinian leadership. Most prominent is the current Palestinian National Security Advisor Mohammed Dahlan.
Recently, Dahlan's name has been suggested for the post of the new Interior Minister in Abu Mazen's cabinet.
Many believe that Dahlan, who has long enjoyed good relations with CIA officials stationed in Israel and is accorded VIP treatment during his visits to the U.S. is being promoted by the Bush administration to bolster Abu Mazan's position and provide the muscle to silence Palestinian opponents of resumed negotiations with Israel.
However, Dahlan, a former boss of the Gaza Preventive Security Service and his former deputy, Rashid Abu Shabak, are the chief suspects in the November 20, 2000, bombing of an Israeli school bus outside of Kfar Darom.
In the Kfar Darom attack several Israeli teachers were killed and many school children were seriously injured. U.S. citizen Rachel Asraf was wounded in the attack and Gavriel Biton, the husband of another American citizen was killed. The bombing of the school bus, which crippled three young children from the Cohen family, shocked Israelis from across the political spectrum and brought international condemnation of the Palestinian Authority.
Following the attack on the children, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak dispatched the Israel Air Force to level Dahlan's Gaza headquarters. Then opposition leader, Ariel Sharon called for Dahlan's "immediate assassination."
In a dramatic policy speech on the Middle East this past summer, U.S. President George Bush called on the Palestinians to oust Arafat and to elect "new and different leaders." The President warned the Palestinian people, in a thinly veiled reference to Arafat, that the United States would not maintain relations with "leaders who are compromised by terror."
Shurat Hadin notes the irony of American officials for grooming Dahlan to replace Arafat, when Dahlan himself was the one actually carrying out the PA's policy of terror attacks on Israeli civilians.
"Promoting a terrorist like Dahlan, who has targeted Israeli school children in his recent attacks, to replace Yassir Arafat merely ensures the continuation of the Palestinian's strategy of using terrorist violence to advance political goals," stated Shurat Hadin Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, "For the United States to prop up a Palestinian commander who bombed an Israeli school bus and injured American citizens undermines President Bush'spledge not to do business with those compromised by terror. Dahlan is not a `new and different' type of Palestinian leader - he is a terrorist no less than Arafat."
Dahlan is being sued both in the Israeli and United States' courts over his
involvement in the Kfar Darom school bus bombing.