Former Palestinian Welfare Minister: Mass Corruption Led To My Resignation

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GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV — Former Palestinian Welfare Minister Shawqi al-Issa has revealed in a Facebook post the reasons for his resignation two years ago from the government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, setting off a storm within the Palestinian Authority.

The former minister included his letter of resignation in the post, and wrote, “The moment of my resignation was not the appropriate time to talk about the reasons as the popular intifada had just begun and martyrs were falling every day and any upsetting discussion would only have done damage.”

“Martyrs” usually refers to those who die while carrying out attacks.

Issa continued, “I wasn’t convinced it was possible for me to continue being useful. I would have stayed, but it wasn’t possible and I was forbidden from taking steps to stop the corruption and improve the services provided to the public. I didn’t speak out then because I didn’t want anyone to say that I wanted to hurt the reconciliation government because all of us aspired to unite our homeland [reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza].”

The former Palestinian minister added, “But what became clear is that reconciliation had become a naive dream and the alienation continued of talented and uncorrupt officials while those suspected of corruption were only strengthened. Now it’s the people’s right to know why I resigned and here is my resignation letter.”

A photo of Issa’s resignation letter addressed to Hamdallah was attached. In the letter, Issa wrote, “You were well aware of the extent of the schemes of the corrupt ones surrounding me. … I presented the details of the political and financial corruption to you more than once, but unfortunately no steps were taken.”

The former minister described alleged corruption in government and civil institutions as well as in the NGOs active in the Palestinian Authority. He also fingered the prime minister directly, writing, “I girdled myself with patience, especially in light of the fact that our people were conducting a popular intifada, but the situation reached the point at which you made decisions in contradiction to the decisions of the government, decisions that were dictated to you by the mentally insane who think only of their personal interests.”

In response to Issa’s post, the Fatah movement, the ruling party of the Palestinian government in Ramallah led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, released a harsh statement attacking the former minister and his claims. The statement asked why Issa would come forward with the reasons for his resignation only after two years.

“We in Fatah do not protect corruption or those who are corrupt, whatever their position. The prevailing perception in the Palestinian state institutions is based on the fight against corruption and the need to weed it out. But we wonder why Issa chose to go public with the reasons for his resignation after two years, a fact that seems strange.

“Issa chose to spread accusations – not to complain to the state institutions but to hand out accusations that harm these people’s honor. He should have gone to the prime minister or the president’s office or to the anti-corruption council or to everyone all together and present them with his claims before turning to the media, unless the goal is to discredit or any other intention that has no connection to the fight against corruption.”

Usama Qawasmeh, a spokesman for the movement, said, “You, Issa, swore allegiance when you were appointed a minister, an allegiance that means to be honest in all regards to information at your disposal, to respect the law and act for the homeland and the citizens and we wonder if the slander and defamation is within the framework of the law and the oath of allegiance.”

The movement accused Issa himself of corruption and claimed that the former minister received money from international institutions including the International Development Network located in Norway. Fatah’s statement claimed that “a representative of the international network was arrested during a raid by Palestinian police and that, among other things, Issa was suspected of being involved in the money laundering of $18 million.”

The former minister took to his Facebook page again in response to the Fatah statement, writing that he laughed when he read the charges and claiming that the statement was full of lies.

“It’s clear to me that someone gave orders to start digging into my history and search for anything that could be used against me,” he wrote. “I say to them, search as much as you want. From the moment of my birth until this moment, you won’t find anything I’m not proud of.”

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