Dahlan in 2005, after returning to Gaza from treatment abroad. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
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Now, with talk rife that Abbas, 80 and still smoking, could step down after 10 years as president, Dahlan is watching the chessboard of Palestinian affairs with a seasoned eye and contemplating his next move, from the safety of his Gulf villa.In July, Abbas removed the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella independence movement, and put Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator with the Israelis for the past 20 years, in his place.Dahlan is in a group of around six people who are seen as potential successors, although all of them are too wise and too weathered by the backbiting of Palestinian affairs to talk openly about any plans to challenge for the leadership.Sensing the threat, and not ready to be shoved aside, Abbas moved against his rival.Abbas set up a new anti-corruption body, with Dahlan an early target, and in 2011 Dahlan was exiled.Dahlan appears to see the Islamists as a lynchpin to the future.The key will be elections, which Abbas has so far resolutely refused to call, fearing his own demise and the further rise of Hamas.
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