Faraj was the first senior Palestinian Authority official to visit the Gulf state since the signing of the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last year.
According to sources, the visit does not indicate that the Palestinian Authority intends to publicly endorse the normalization agreements between Israel and some Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates.
During the visit, Faraj met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Makhtoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, who toured the Palestinian pavilion at the exhibition.
“I had the honor to visit the Palestinian pavilion at the Dubai 202 Expo, where Palestinian culture, history and holy sites were present,” Al-Makhtoum wrote on Twitter. “When Palestine is present, beauty is present and history writes its presence.”
Al-Makhtoum did not mention meeting with the Palestinian official.
The United Arab Emirates news agency WAM, which reported on the meeting, did not provide any details about the meeting. The agency described Faraj as a “special envoy of President Mahmoud Abbas.”
Faraj, who has strong relations with Israel and the United States, is seen by some Palestinians as a possible candidate to succeed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian Authority’s decision to participate in the Expo 2020 Dubai exhibition came as a surprise to many Palestinians, especially in light of statements by senior Palestinian officials in favor of boycotting the event.
The Palestinians were even more surprised by the decision to send the intelligence chief to the exhibition.
“Why would you send the head of the intelligence service to such an event?” asked Palestinian political activist Nidal Hamed. “If the head of the intelligence service is sent to hold talks with world leaders, it is a sign that something is being cooked behind closed doors.”
Hamed and other political analysts noted that Faraj’s visit came amid a severe financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority. They said the Palestinian leadership hoped that the UAE and other Arab countries would resume financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.
A senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah expressed hope that the visit will mark “the beginning of a new era in relations between the Palestinians and the United Arab Emirates.”
Last year, the Palestinian leadership strongly condemned the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, calling it treason against the al-Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.
“This is an aggression against the Palestinian people and a blow to the Arab peace initiative and the decisions of the Arab and Islamic summits and international legitimacy,” said Palestinian Authority presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh.
The Palestinian Authority briefly withdrew its ambassador to the United Arab Emirates in protest of the normalization agreement.
Relations between the two sides were further strained when Palestinians protesting the normalization agreement burned UAE flags and photographs of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.
Recently, Palestinian officials and factions condemned the opening of the UAE embassy in Tel Aviv and called for an end to Arab normalization with Israel.
But relations between the Palestinian Authority and the United Arab Emirates have been strained for nearly a decade, mainly due to the Gulf state’s decision to host Mohammed Dahlan, a former Palestinian security commander and outspoken critic of Abbas, 85 years old.
Dahlan was forced to flee the West Bank after a fight with Abbas and other senior officials from the ruling Fatah faction.
After settling in the UAE, Dahlan, who was later expelled from Fatah, formed an opposition group called the Democratic Reform Current.
Reports in some Arab media outlets have referred to Dahlan as a special adviser to the ruler of the United Arab Emirates.
Sources close to Abbas claimed for the past several years that Dahlan was working to undermine the leadership of the Palestinian Authority in hopes of becoming the next president.
According to sources, Dahlan’s alleged plan was endorsed by the United Arab Emirates and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi.
In recent years, Palestinian security forces arrested dozens of Palestinians in the West Bank on suspicion of being affiliated with or financed by Dahlan.
Sources noted that the Palestinian Authority is seeking Dahlan for his role in rampant financial corruption. Dahlan has repeatedly denied the charges.
Faraj’s visit to the United Arab Emirates coincided with unconfirmed reports in the Arab media about the tensions between Dahlan and Crown Prince bin Zayed.
According to some reports, Dahlan is considering moving to Cairo after his alleged fall from grace.
A source close to Dahlan denied on Saturday that the exiled Palestinian official had been placed under house arrest in Abu Dhabi.
The source also downplayed the importance of Faraj’s visit to Dubai, saying it would have no impact on the close ties between Dahlan and the ruler of the United Arab Emirates.
“We welcome any rapprochement between the Palestinians and the Guld states, particularly the United Arab Emirates, which have always supported our people and the Palestinian cause,” the source said.
Meanwhile, what is evident is that Dahlan has kept a low profile in recent weeks, increasing speculation that the honeymoon between him and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates has indeed ended.
Some Palestinians believe that the UAE may have decided to leave Dahlan at the request of Israel and the United States as part of a policy that aims to strengthen Abbas and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
If true, reports of a crisis between Dahlan and the UAE mean that Abbas has managed to “neutralize” one of his most dangerous rivals.