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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Corruption among the Palestinian Authority’s Top Brass

Filed under: Palestinians

Corruption among the Palestinian Authority’s Top Brass
President Mahmoud Abbas’ newly constructed presidential palace near Ramallah. After criticism of the opulent $13 million structure, he declared in August 2017 it would house a national library. (Ameen Rammal/CC BY-SA 4.0)
  • Anger is mounting on the Palestinian street in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip following the revelation of a new case of corruption, in which the salaries of the prime minister and ministers rose by 67 percent, in contravention of the law.
  • PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas approved the raises. Fatah sources say that this step was taken to buy the loyalty and silence of senior PA officials.

The Palestinian street is seething in the wake of a new corruption scandal discovered among the Palestinian Authority’s top brass related to the salaries of the prime minister and ministers in the PA government.

The new corruption incident was revealed by an anonymous internet site named “Against the Tide” (Aks al-Tayyar in Arabic). In June 2019, it published several documents showing that the salaries of then-Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and government ministers were raised two years earlier by 67 percent, which is against Palestinian law.

According to senior Fatah sources, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas personally authorized the salary raises for the prime minister and his ministers. The raise was authorized at a session of the PA government, and the prime minister would not have dared to pass this resolution without receiving the green light from the PA chairman.

According to the resolution, the salaries of the prime minister and his ministers rose by a fixed $2,000 per month.

The decision also had a financial effect upon the monthly pension received by former Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his former ministers.

When new Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh took on his position in March 2019, he did not annul the resolution, despite his stated policy of “tightening the belt” and making cuts to government institutions to deal with the severe financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority. This crisis was caused by a reduction in U.S. aid and the PA’s refusal to accept tax funds from Israel, which forms 70 percent of its budget. Abbas rejected the full Israeli payments because they were reduced by the sum granted to the families of shahids (suicide bombers) and imprisoned terrorists every month.

Muhammad Shtayyeh’s most striking move was to pass a resolution in the government not to purchase new cars for government ministers.

Following the exposé of the graft, UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov harshly criticized the Palestinian Authority. He spoke to PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh and asked him to cancel the raise completely and order an inquiry into the case.

Palestinian news agency Maan reported on June 7, 2019, that Shtayyeh stated his government would change the resolution that increased the monthly salary of government ministers by $2,000 per month.

However, nothing was done. The storm on the Palestinian street in the West Bank and Gaza continues. The issue has become a daily topic of conversation, and anger is rising against the corruption of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

The PA government cut the salaries of PA clerks in March 2019 by 40 percent, while the prime minister and his ministers received the increase of $2,000 to their own salaries.

Senior Fatah sources say that Mahmoud Abbas is not bothered by the revelation of the episode. He is relying on Shtayyeh, who is an economist by profession, to cleverly sweep the matter away and get it off the public agenda.

The Fatah sources say that this is how Abbas and his two sons have acquired the loyalty of senior Fatah officials and their silence with regard to their corruption.

Mahmoud Abbas in the hospital in Ramallah.
Mahmoud Abbas recovering in hospital in May 2018 with his sons Tareq (left) and Yasser. (Photo released to the Arab press)

Prime Minister Shtayyeh said in June 2019 that the Palestinian Authority needed to take bank loans to deal with its large financial crisis.

In an interview in The New York Times on June 5, 2019, Shtayyeh stated, “The Palestinian Authority is collapsing because of its financial crisis and soon it will start sending security men home.”

The Palestinian Authority wants the Arab countries to implement the resolutions of the Arab summit and give it an economic safety net of $100 million to handle President Trump’s “Deal of the Century.” However, the Arab countries are not in a hurry to put this resolution into practice. The intelligence services of these countries recognize the corruption and hedonism of the senior PA officials, and they are concerned that any funds provided to PA coffers will not really be used to assist the residents of the West Bank and Gaza.

What Shtayyeh needed to do was immediately cancel the generous increase of $2,000 to each member of the PA government and provide a personal example of “tightening the belt” to the residents of the territories. However, he is dragging his feet and is afraid of conflict with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is primarily responsible for what happens to the PA leadership.