Not only is the Israeli government and army responsible for making life for Palestinians arduous, the corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA) is also to blame, but is often ignored by the mainstream media.
When polled, 95.5%, nearly all Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank, stated that they believe Abbas’s government is corrupt. In power for 10 years, 2.5 times his legal limit, Abbas has not done anything to improve the lives of his people. Furthermore, the promises of statehood and autonomy he made upon being elected in January 2005 have not materialized.
The only positive event that has taken place during his term was the 2005 Gaza disengagement, which was planned by the late Israeli PM Ariel Sharon. Abbas played no diplomatic role in this plan, which entailed the removal of all Israeli settlers and IDF soldiers from Gaza. Understandably, Israel is an unforgettable factor in the daily hardships that Palestinians face, but Abbas’ inability to diplomatically negotiate agreements with the Israeli government and act in his constituency’s best interest has led Palestinians to distrust him and his fellow officials.
Misappropriation of Funds
The current PA government’s lack of transparency with information such as their budget prevents the public from knowing what Abbas and his aides are really doing with funds entrusted to them, and this is where suspicion arises. The Palestinian public have began to believe that members of Abbas’ circle enjoy lifestyles unknown to everyone else.
In the de facto Palestinian capital Ramallah, high ranking PA officials live in luxurious enclosed compounds while eating three meals a day and finding clean water to drink is a hurdle that many Palestinians struggle to overcome.
Last year, President Abbas ordered the construction of a $13 million presidential palace, all while Palestinians are poorer than ever, and Gaza is still recovering from the war in 2014, which left many, dead and neighborhoods completely destroyed. Moreover, according to the Gatestone Institute, a New York based think tank, Mahmoud Abbas’ net worth is over $100 million.
No solid evidence is available as the PA government refuse to release annual budgets.
Corruption Within PA Not New
Mahmoud Abbas’ abuse of public funds is sadly not something new in Palestine. The previous and first leader of the Palestine National Authority (PNA), Yasser Arafat, also indulged in similar acts. His net worth was an estimated $1 billion at the time of his death in December of 2004. Some reports state that a vast amount of his wealth was unaccounted for and actually totaled to a staggering $3 billion.
A team of accountants discovered that Arafat’s massive fortune was siphoned from public funds such as taxes. However, most of it was not used for the very people that Arafat claimed to love and fight for. The only person who had control of those funds was Arafat himself, and like Abbas, was opaque with how he spent money belonging to all Palestinians.
Salam Fayyad, the former PA Finance Minister appointed by Arafat, said “There is corruption out there. There is abuse. There is impropriety, and that’s what had to be fixed.” From what can be observed in the case of Abbas, the PA government has sadly engaged in more corruption and has held themselves to a higher standard than the people they govern.
Fayyad’s statement also dispels the claims by Abbas’ aides that suspicions of PA corruption are farfetched and untrue.
Future of the Palestinian Authority
The future of the PA looks sullen. From the illegal Israeli settlements and those who threaten the peace of the Palestinians in the West Bank, to the PA government being rotten to the core, the resilience of Palestinians will be tested for much longer.
Abbas and Arafat have publicly expressed love and support to their people while robbing them of their livelihoods behind closed doors. Whistleblowers like Fayyad are not uncommon, but for the PA to break their habit of corruption, an Intifada against them is needed. After realizing that their charity has been usurped by corrupt PA leaders, one can only hope that real change is brought to this struggling state sooner than later.