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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Nepotism in the Palestinian Authority Angers the Public

Filed under: Fatah, Palestinians

Nepotism in the Palestinian Authority Angers the Public
Mahmoud Habash, the supreme Sharia judge in the Palestinian Authority, loaded government offices with his relatives.
  • Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh has ordered the establishment of a committee to review government promotions and appointments following the allegations of nepotism. 
  • The Palestinian street in the West Bank is furious at the PA appointments of relatives of senior PA officials, while salaries to tens of thousands of PA workers are withheld on the grounds of a severe financial crisis.

The Palestinian street in the West Bank is still reeling from the corruption stories revealed by Yasser Jadallah, the former Director of the Political Department in PA President Abbas’ office.1 First was the Palestinian aid money stolen by senior PA officials, and now a new scandal of nepotism is riddling the leadership of the PA.

According to Fatah sources, Health Minister Dr. Mai al-Kaila, who is close to Hussein al-Sheikh, Head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs of the Palestinian Authority and a close associate of the PA chairman, has in recent days, appointed several relatives of senior officials in the PA to senior positions in the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Dr. Mai Al-Kaila, Ph.D., being congratulated by President Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh upon her appointment in April 2019. She served as a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council (Facebook)

Wa’el al-Sheikh, the nephew of Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, was appointed Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health. Moatasem Mohsin, son of Fatah leadership member, Jamal Mohsin, was appointed Director of the Health Department in Ramallah and Al-Bireh.  Dr. Maha Awad, the sister of the previous Health Minister, Jawad Awad, was appointed Director of the Women’s Health Unit.

Dr. Maha Awad
Dr. Maha Awad, sister of the previous Palestinian Health Minister. (Al Najah National University)

The news of the appointments was leaked to social networks. The PA did not deny it, and the rage grew on the Palestinian street, especially since the PA has withheld salaries for tens of thousands of their own workers because of the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, the PA leadership is given generous benefits and large salaries.

A wave of denunciations and unrelenting criticism filled the social networks in the Palestinian Authority on June 23, 2020.    

Alaa Abu Diab, a satirist, posted on his Facebook account a call to the PA to establish a “Ministry for the Children of Senior Members of the PA” so that the PA could quickly appoint relatives. “Give them salaries and jobs, just keep them away from the fields of health, education, agriculture and all government offices that can affect people’s lives, health, our future, and future generations,” he wrote. 

Oversight Committee

The rage on the Palestinian street forced the PA to respond quickly to these new appointments.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced at his weekly government meeting on June 22, 2020, that a new committee will review all appointments in government offices.

He said the senior appointments require the approval of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian government. He claimed that all promotions in the government ministries were stopped about a year ago because of the PA’s financial distress.

The Palestinian street does not buy the explanations given by the PA and does not believe anything will come out of this newly established review committee. Palestinians believe that the move was designed to act as a “tranquilizer” to contain the widespread outrage and then to dissolve the issue.

The phenomenon of nepotism is not new to the PA; it has existed since the PA was established after the signing of the Oslo Accords. However, nepotism has gained momentum in recent years during the reign of Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinians explain that the PA chairman forgives nepotism among his associates because he needs their support as well as protection for his own corruption, and for the meteoric advance of his two sons in the business world and their accumulated wealth.

There are plenty of examples of nepotism practiced by the Chairman’s close associates, such as General Majed Faraj, the Head of Palestinian General Intelligence, who is considered as one of the candidates to succeed Abbas.

According to sources in the PA, Faraj’s wife Amal serves as the Chief of Financial Audit in the position of Director-General, while his son Bashar who served as an officer in the Palestinian Police, who then became division chief of the International and National Relations at the Financial Follow-up Unit.

According to Fatah sources, Mahmoud al-Habash, advisor to the PA Chairman, ranks first in the PA’s nepotism practice. His son was appointed to become Director-General of the Prosecutor’s Office. His daughter was appointed to be the Director-General of Religious Affairs. His brother was appointed to handle the Hajj pilgrimage of the Palestinian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, while another daughter was appointed as Second Secretary of the Palestinian Embassy in Turkey, after working with him in his office.

Mahmoud Habash
Mahmoud Habash, the supreme Sharia judge in the Palestinian Authority, is said to have informed the Palestinian president of a plot against him a decade ago.2

Mahmoud Abbas’s brother-in-law was appointed, according to PA sources, to the post of Director-General of the Waqf office.

According to Fatah officials, PA senior officials Majed Faraj and Hussein al-Sheikh have a major influence on the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyadh Al-Maliki. Al-Maliki is favored by the PA chairman and is responsible for a series of appointments of their associates in the Palestinian Foreign Service.

Nepotism is rife throughout Arab regimes in the Middle East, so the Palestinian public has accepted it as part of the custom of Arab rulers in the region. However, when it is accompanied by such severe corruption, especially when the economic situation in the West Bank is so grave, it becomes the scandal of the day and a source of hostility toward Abbas’ government.

This is one of the reasons Mahmoud Abbas will find it difficult to rally the support of the West Bank citizenry in anticipation of the Israeli extension of sovereignty. He may find that Palestinians are in no hurry to respond to calls by the PA leadership or Fatah since many residents are fed up with the corruption and nepotism in the PA.

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