Using the ruse of “resisting Israeli settlements” to request money for personal use, Palestinian officials are stealing millions from their people.
Palestinians are enraged following the online leaking of documents detailing two attempts by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials to misuse public funds, highlighting the corruption and mismanagement critics say remains rampant in the Palestinian government.
The furor over the documents comes as the Palestinian economy is stagnating and Palestinians grow increasingly displeased with government services. PA officials have defended their record on stamping out corruption, saying they’ve recovered millions of dollars in misspent funds.
A senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t allowed to discuss the leak, confirmed the documents’ authenticity to the Associated Press. They have offered a rare glimpse into the wheeling and dealing of the Palestinian government, long bogged down by rivalries.
One document signed by Majdi al-Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser to PA head Mahmoud Abbas, who accompanies him on his trips to world capitals, asked Bahrain’s foreign minister for $4 million to fund a private neighborhood complex for Palestinian officials in an upscale area of Ramallah. He insisted the complex was “meant to resist the Israeli settlements,” even though there are no Jewish communities where the complex was built.
It isn’t clear if Bahrain ever paid the money. Al-Khaldi declined to comment when reached by AP.
The other document, signed by Nazmi Muhanna, general director of the Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority, requested the government pay for his daughter’s schooling as well as medical treatment for his family in Jordan for a total of $15,000, a hefty sum for many Palestinians. Muhanna defended his demand, saying it was permitted by the Palestinian government. The government later claimed it did not cover such expenses.
Palestinian Social Media Ablaze with Anger
Outrage over the documents quickly spread on social media, where Palestinians challenged everything from their leadership’s finances to its political legitimacy in the face of repeatedly delayed elections, last held in 2005.
“If Muhanna’s daughter costs the Palestinian Authority 6,500 Jordanian Dinars (about $9,175) in private school in Jordan, what about the poor students in government schools? Who will pay attention to them?” Mohammed Abu Allan, a Palestinian political blogger, wrote on Facebook.
Some observers say corruption has decreased since the 2004 death of former PA leader Yasser Arafat. Abbas promised reforms, but he has been criticized for ignoring corruption among his loyalists while targeting political rivals.
‘Big Black Holes’ in the System
“There are big black holes” in the Palestinian financial and administrative system that “need to be addressed and reformed,” explained Azmi Shoabi, the head of Aman, a branch of the corruption watchdog Transparency International. Those include failing to publish financial reports properly and on time while not overseeing some 20 government-run funds headed by executives with excessive salaries, he said.
Various public departments have become “private kingdoms” for some officials, Shoabi added.
Rafeq Natsheh, who heads the Palestinian anti-corruption commission, said that the body is fighting against graft and has recovered millions of stolen dollars. For Palestinians, the leaked documents only reinforced perceptions that the government remains tainted.
“We need to see the real picture which is much bigger than the fees of Muhanna’s daughter,” Rami Mehdawi, a columnist for the Palestinian al-Ayam newspaper, wrote on Facebook. “The entire Palestinian system needs to be addressed and reformed to clean up the rampant corruption, mismanagement and nepotism.”
Polls conducted among the Palestinians consistently show that they have very little regard for their leadership, which they consider to be thoroughly corrupt.
Although the PA repeatedly claims it has no funds, somehow it finds a way to pay stipends to terrorists and their families.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff
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