From his golden exile in Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Dahlan seems to be a constant presence in political and business affairs in the region, from the Balkans to Israel, Libya and Yemen, while staying discreetly in the shadows. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas's big rival would rather let his influential friends and political allies do his bidding for him. As the general and presidential elections loom, there is much excitement in Palestinian politics about the prospect of Dahlan's return. Intelligence Online shines a light on the former spymaster's eclectic network of relationships.

Although his regional activities keep him busy, Mohammed Dahlan has never lost touch with the political scene in Palestine, letting it be known that he could return at some point, and his supporters are excitedly hoping the country's elections later this year will be that moment. Since the start of the year, Dahlan has been giving his attentions to his native Gaza Strip, organising a series of image-boosting deliveries of Abu Dhabi-funded humanitarian aid (Intelligence Online, 18/01/21). To block Dahlan's political path, in February President Mahmoud Abbas banned him from running in any future election but that has not stopped Dahlan making his moves, both in Palestine and across the region.

Considered at times to be too close to Egypt, at others too close to Israel, Dahlan fell from favour in the West Bank in the early 2000s and was forced to resign as head of Preventive Security in 2007 after Hamas came to power in Gaza. He went into exile in 2011, initially moving to Cairo and subsequently settling in Abu Dhabi with his wife Jalila Dahlan and their four children. While keeping one eye on Palestinian politics, he threw himself into a new role as special adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was a fighter pilot in the UAE Air Force at the time. Dahlan went on to become the representative of the UAE's interests abroad, most notably in Serbia, where he helped UAE business, and in Yemen where he oversaw the recruitment of private military companies (Intelligence Online, 24/10/18). He remains at the forefront of UAE-Israeli relations in the wake of the two countries' diplomatic normalisation last year (Intelligence Online, 26/08/20).