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Latest News in Israel – 18th June

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World

Compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Israel has nearly 100 nuclear warheads, says peace research group

Israel has 80 to 90 nuclear warheads according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which bills itself as an “independent resource on global security,” and released its SIPRI Yearbook 2019 findings on Monday.

Of Israel’s warheads, approximately 30 are gravity bombs and 50 can be delivered by ballistic missile, the report says. SIPRI also refers to unconfirmed reports that Israel’s Dolphin-class submarines are capable of launching nuclear warheads. “Israel has a long-standing policy of not commenting on its nuclear arsenal,” the report notes.

Israel’s nuclear capabilities were only part of the report which looked at the “current state of armaments, disarmament and international security” around the world. The key takeaway of this year’s report, according to SIPRI Governing Board Chair Jan Eliasson is that “despite an overall decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2018, all nuclear weapon-possessing states continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals.”

Russia and U.S. have sophisticated programs to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, production facilities and missile and aircraft delivery systems, SIPRI says. “In 2018, the US Department of Defense set out plans to develop new nuclear weapons and modify others to give them expanded military roles and missions,” it reports.

Roughly 13,865 nuclear weapons in the world are possessed by nine states —the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), according to the report.

Russia and the U.S. account for 90 percent of those weapons. The numbers held by the two are roughly equivalent, SIPRI says. The U.S. has 1,750 deployed nuclear warheads to Russia’s 1,600. The U.S. also has 4,435 “other warheads” and Russia 4,900. SIPRI defines “other warheads” as warheads that are in reserve, stored or retired.

SIPRI says that information on nuclear arms capabilities is limited. While the U.S., U.K. and France disclose information, Russia does not. India and Pakistan provide little information. North Korea, while saying they’ve conducted tests, “provides no information about its nuclear weapon capabilities.”  (WIN) David Isaac

Palestinian indicted for kidnapping, rape of 7-year-old Jewish girl

An indictment was brought on Sunday against a 46-year-old Palestinian Arab accused of kidnapping and rape of a 7-year-old Jewish girl from the Benjamin region. The suspect was arraigned at the Judea military court at the Ofer military base northwest of Jerusalem.

The Arab man from the village of Deir Kadis in Samaria was indicted after an investigation lasting several months. According to the charges, the accused worked as a janitor and maintenance man at an educational facility in one of the Benjamin settlements. He got to the know the young victim and won her trust by giving her sweets.

Then, one afternoon, after studies had ended, he took the girl to an empty house where he raped her. She screamed for help and tried to resist. After the rape, he let her go.

A lawyer for Honenu, a legal aid organization helping the family, said “We’re talking about the most cruel and shocking event, when as it was going on other people were present, apparently Palestinian workers who humiliated and degraded the girl and helped the suspect.”

Referring to the report that the rapist’s friends helped the suspect in the incident and have not yet been arrested, Likud MK Etty Chava Attiya said “My stomach turns to hear of these shocking acts by evil people who raped and murdered the tender soul of a 7-year-old girl.”

“These kinds of cases keep me awake, and I call on the security forces to get their hands on these accursed criminals and employ the full severity of the law against them,” she said.

Rafi Peretz, leader of the Jewish Home party and United Right, said “The evil person that committed this terrible act has no right to exist in this world, him and everyone who helped him.” (WIN)

White House: Israelis not invited to Mideast peace workshop in Bahrain

A White House official says that Israeli representatives have not been invited to the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Bahrain next week.

The official said Monday that the meeting is to focus on the administration’s “economic vision” for the Palestinians and will not focus on “political issues.”

The administration official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The announcement means that neither Israelis nor Palestinians will be attending a conference meant to shape their fate.

The Palestinians, accusing the U.S. of bias favoring Israel, have rejected the Trump administration’s peace plan out of hand and have urged Arab countries to boycott the meeting.

Last week the White House said Jordan, Egypt and Morocco would be attending the workshop in Manama. (WIN) David Isaac

MK’s Rafi Peretz appointed education minister, Bezalel Smotrich gets transportation

The head of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, MK Rabbi Rafi Peretz, was appointed interim education minister on Monday, while MK Bezalel Smotrich, who heads the hard-line religious-Zionist National Union party, a constituent of URP, was made interim transportation minister.

At the request of URP, Smotrich was appointed as a full member of the security cabinet while Peretz was given observer status in the body.

Following his appointment by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Smotrich said that as a member of the security cabinet, he would demand “a decision regarding Hamas,” and “the restoration of quiet” for southern residents, in reference to the ongoing tensions on the southern border and the sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

In an interview on KAN News, Smotrich went further saying that the only way to restore security for the south was to reconquer the Gaza Strip and reestablish the Gush Katif settlements, which were evacuated in the 2005 disengagement.

“The only solution for Gaza that will finally bring quiet, peace and security to the residents of the south is to return to the Gaza Strip and take responsibility to reestablish the Gush Katif settlements,” said Smotrich. “Until then we are only conducting tactical solutions.”

Asked whether he was close enough to Netanyahu to get the ministerial portfolio he most desires, that of justice minister, Smotrich said he was not Netanyahu’s man but rather a man of God.

“I am not Netanyahu’s man, I am a man of the Jewish people, I am a man of the public who sent me [to the Knesset], allow me to say, and I hope I do not arouse a storm, I work for God and I do what I believe and think is good for the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

According to a statement from a Likud Party spokesman, it was agreed during a meeting between Netanyahu, Peretz and Smotrich that the status quo on matters of religion and state would be preserved during the tenure of the interim government.

This was likely in response to unverified reports that Smotrich was threatening not to automatically approve requests for infrastructure work on Shabbat, which destabilized the last government largely due to the disquiet of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties over such public Shabbat desecration.

Smotrich denied that he made such comments, pointing out the welfare and labor minister made such decisions.

Peretz thanked Netanyahu for his appointment, saying he took on the position of education minister “with honor and awe,” and that he would be “the education minister of all the children of Israel, and would embrace everyone” in his work.

Criticism of the appointments from the Left was swift in coming, with Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg saying that Netanyahu had “given two people who want to turn Israel into a state of Jewish law the keys” to do so.

She also slammed the appointment of Smotrich to the cabinet, saying the prime minister had put “a messianic warmonger into Israel’s [security] cabinet.”

Smotrich said recently that in the long term he wanted the State of Israel to be governed by Jewish law. Following his appointment, he said that although he had demanded the Justice Ministry in the interim government, as well as the permanent position during coalition negotiations, he had backed down since he had less leverage currently than when Netanyahu was trying to form a new government.

Writing on his Facebook page, Smotrich said that the struggle to obtain the prestigious and highly influential position of justice minister in the next government was not over.

The newly minted minister said being part of the security cabinet was “an important tool in the ability to impact and lead,” and that it was fitting that representatives of the religious-Zionist community have a role in it.

Smotrich explained that the decision in which he took the full security cabinet membership and not Peretz had been taken between them, the reason being that Peretz was “a man of education” while Smotrich described himself as “coming more from the operative realm.”

The minister said that in the security cabinet he and Peretz would make heard “a clear voice that returns to a dialogue of victory and the destruction of the enemy,” and that they would “demand a decision on Hamas and the restoration of quiet for southern residents.”

Separately, Bayit Yehudi is scheduled to hold a meeting of its central committee on Wednesday, when it is thought that the list of Knesset candidates from the last election will be preserved.

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan of the Bayit Yehudi Party told The Jerusalem Post that he will be the fourth place candidate and will not, as last time, receive a reserved slot on the Likud slate.

During the last election, Ben-Dahan was given a reserved spot at No. 28 on the Likud list, in return for Bayit Yehudi and National Union adding the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party to its joint list.

Netanyahu sweetened the deal for Bayit Yehudi, which gave up Ben-Dahan’s spot for an Otzma Yehudit candidate, by adding Ben-Dahan to the Likud list.

Ben-Dahan said that Netanyahu had already told him he could not enact such a maneuver this time, since he already needed to integrate four Kulanu candidates onto Likud’s list. (Jerusalem Post)

Official New Zealand government website wipes Israel off the map

Immigration New Zealand, an official government website, published a fact sheet with a map of the Middle East that showed a “Palestine,” but not Israel.

Following a barrage of complaints on social media, the web page was removed, though screenshots remain.

The Israel Institute of New Zealand called for a retraction of the map.

“The most immediately obvious of the errors was a map labeling the whole of modern-day Israel as ‘Palestine,’” said the institute’s director, Ashley Church. “This is incredibly offensive and the equivalent of New Zealand Immigration displaying a map of the UK which removed Scotland and Wales and referred to the entirety of the British Isles as England.”

The fact sheet, which offered information about Palestinian immigrants to New Zealand, also identified East Jerusalem as “the designated capital of the State of Palestine.” There also was no mention of Palestinian terrorism, but information on the page said that Israel caused “massive repression of Palestinians” during the second intifada.

The web page also mentioned Israel’s “economic sanctions and a blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza” with no further explanation. Israel and Egypt impose a blockade on Gaza to prevent Hamas, which is sworn to destroy Israel, from bringing in weapons, rockets and material to build fortifications and tunnels.

“Our Immigration Minister needs to immediately apologize for the offending image and confirm that it does not reflect Government policy; Immigration New Zealand needs to issue a statement confirming that the website does not represent the views of the Ministry; and an investigation needs to be undertaken to find out who was responsible and to put in place measures to ensure that this does not happen again,” Church said. (the Times of Israel) Henry Benjamin

Israel lays fourth water pipeline to Gaza, the largest yet

Israel’s national water company Mekorot has begun work on an upgraded pipeline to Gaza that will increase the flow of drinkable water into the blockaded enclave.

The new pipeline will enter Gaza at its center, crossing over from the Eshkol Regional Council in Israel to connect to the Strip’s water system, the Ynet news site reported Monday.

There are three pipelines currently carrying freshwater from Israel into Gaza at three sites along the border. In agreements with the Palestinians, Israel committed to transferring 10 million cubic meters (2.6 billion gallons) of water each year to Gaza, but in practice transfers a bit more, roughly 11.5 million cubic meters (3 billion gallons).

The new pipeline will be the largest yet, and will run alongside one of the old pipes and work in tandem with it.

Construction work began in recent days, and is being conducted under heavy military guard out of fear that Gazan terror groups will open fire on the crews as the pipeline-laying work nears the border.

“Water is a basic thing. There’s an entire population in Gaza that doesn’t want war with Israel, and that population is the majority that is being controlled by Hamas,” one unidentified employee on the pipeline crew told Ynet.

“It’s a shame that’s the situation. Most of the people in Gaza are thirsty for water, but also hunger for a normal life and a better future for their children. They’re our neighbors, despite everything, and we can’t ignore what’s happening there.”

It is not immediately clear how much more water Israel can actually pump into Gaza, as the water infrastructure in the Strip itself has not been maintained by the territory’s Hamas rulers, and may collapse under the strain of a significant increase in the volume of water passing through it.

Israel and Hamas are said to be engaged in informal talks via third parties on rehabilitating some of the territory’s water and sewage infrastructure, which international organizations have warned have reached the point of collapse. Sewage from Gaza is pumped directly into the Mediterranean untreated, and often is simply released into the street, sparking fears of disease spread in the crowded enclave.

Recent weeks have seen tensions in the Gaza Strip soar, following a massive two-day flare-up last month between Israel and terror groups in the Strip, in which terrorists fired nearly 700 rockets, mortar shells and anti-tank guided missiles at southern and central Israel, killing four people.

The Israeli military struck back, hitting over 300 targets linked with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, including several rocket-launching teams. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed in the fighting, most of them members of terror groups.

Since March 30, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza have also participated in regular protests along the border, demanding Israel lift its restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the coastal enclave and calling for the return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to lands that are now a part of the Jewish state. The protests have included many acts of violence against Israeli security forces, and have seen at least 200 Palestinians killed.

Israeli officials maintain that the blockade it and Egypt have imposed on Gaza following Hamas’s takeover of the territory in 2007 is in place to prevent local terrorist groups from smuggling weapons and other warfighting resources into the Strip.  (the Times of Israel) Staff

Stolen Torah scrolls found in Palestinian barn

Israeli security forces recently discovered four Torah scrolls stolen from a synagogue in the city of Bnei Brak hidden in a barn in a Palestinian Authority town near Nablus, along with a hunting rifle and ammunition.

The scrolls, worth tens of thousands of dollars, were stolen on June 10 from the Orot Hatorah synagogue on Rabbi Akiva Street, one of the oldest synagogues in the city and which was used by the famed Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, the Chazon Ish.

The synagogue itself was vandalized, with holy books strewn across the floor.

The scrolls were located in a barn housing sheep in the Palestinian town of Aqraba. Five men in their 20s from Aqraba and east Jerusalem have been arrested in connection with the theft.

A hunting rifle, ammunition and fireworks – which are often used as weapons due to their explosive capabilities – were also discovered in the barn.

The scrolls will be returned to the synagogue following a police investigation. (JNS) Staff

Director of Jewish Museum Berlin resigns over BDS tweet

Berlin’s Jewish Museum said its director, Peter Schäfer, had resigned Friday to “prevent further damage” to the city’s drawcard that attracts 700,000 visitors annually and describes itself as a “place for reflection” on Jewish history and culture, migration and diversity in Germany.

The museum was criticized for the exhibition “Welcome to Jerusalem,” which focused on daily life, religion and politics in the city. Some said the exhibit was biased in favor of the Palestinian point of view.

The museum was also denounced this week when its Twitter account linked to a news article about Israeli academics who condemned a German parliament resolution that called the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “anti-Semitic.”

German lawmakers said BDS uses anti-Semitic methods to promote its political goals — a claim firmly rejected by the movement, which calls for a boycott of Israel over its policies towards Palestinians and an end to the occupation of the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

Schäfer, a well-known Jewish studies scholar and the museum’s director since 2014, told Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Tuesday that he regretted the tweet, adding that the museum had never had the task of taking sides in current political debates. In a second tweet, the museum said it did not intend to take a position against the parliamentary resolution but to point out the input from the academics.

Schäfer defended the museum’s “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition, say it took neither an anti-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian line.

Last December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanding the closure of the exhibition. At the time, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Schäfer as describing Jerusalem as a “place of longing for Jews, Christians and Muslims.”

Netanyahu’s assertion that the exhibition, which ran until April, amounted to a one-sided “Palestinian-Muslim view” was rejected as political interference by Schäfer and Monika Grütters, the German government’s commissioner for culture and the media.

On Friday, Schäfer again defended the special exhibition, saying it had not produced anti-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian propaganda.

Central Council of Jews in Germany chairman Josef Schuster, who earlier this week said the museum seemed “totally out of control” and questioned whether it could still call itself “Jewish,” said Schäfer’s resignation as director of the museum was “an important step in averting further damage to the institution.”

Schuster told Saturday’s edition of Berlin’s Tageszeitung newspaper that Judaism should in the future have “more influence” and that he would welcome a Jewish director for the federally funded museum.

In April, the museum’s board extended Schäfer’s contract for a further year, with Schäfer saying he was working on the opening in May 2020 of a new permanent exhibition and a museum branch for children.

In its statement Friday, the museum said its manager Martin Michaelis would head the facility until a successor was found. (Deutsche Welle-Germany) Staff

Fury as Ukraine okays new homes on site of Jewish massacre during the Holocaust

The city of Poltava in Eastern Ukraine has decided to sell the site of the massacre of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust to property developers to build homes, prompting an outcry from Ukraine’s Jewish community as well as government officials.

The decision caused outcry from the Ukrainian Jewish community and was addressed by the Ministry of Culture in Kiev, but so far to no avail.

Israeli Ambassador to the Ukraine Joel Leon sent a passionate plea to the mayor of Poltava and his city council. He said that as a representative of the State of Israel and a Holocaust survivor himself, he was making an appeal in the name of those no longer able to do so to stop this injustice from taking place.

“Our brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil,” Leon said, quoting the plea of the slain from Book of Genesis.

Poltava, which today has a population of 300,000, was occupied by the Nazis in 1941. Though much of the city’s Jewish population was said to have fled before the arrival of the German troops, thousands were murdered in mass killings and buried in mass graves in the area.

This is not the first time the city has evoked strong emotions related to its recent Jewish history.

Last year, the “Grieving Mother” monument, a memorial in Poltava to 8,000 of the city’s Jews murdered by the Nazis, was desecrated on HIlter’s birthday with the slogan “Heil Hitler” and a swastika.

Before the war, Jews made up almost 10% of the population of Poltava, and it was considered an important center of Jewish life.

According to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center, the Nazis imprisoned the Jewish community in a ghetto before they were murdered in mass executions. (Ynet News) Itamar Eichner

Appreciative Laughter Greets Malaysian PM’s Antisemitic Barb at Cambridge University Appearance

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — infamous for his antisemitic views across several decades — delivered an anti-Jewish barb that was greeted with laughter during an appearance at the Cambridge University Union in the UK on Sunday night.

The 93-year-old was responding to a respectfully-posed question from the event moderator who asked him, “Why do you say that the Jewish people in general are inclined towards money? There are lots of Jews who care about human rights, care about social justice, care about democracy.”

Mahathir answered: “I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends.”

This comment was met with an appreciative peal of laughter that rippled across the audience. This was immediately followed by an awkward silence, during which Mahathir grinned at the moderator and then the audience.

At no point was Mahathir challenged or reprimanded by the moderator. There were no audible protests from the audience.

“I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends”- Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad at the Cambridge Union last night.

The audience laughs.

Freedom of speech is not a joke when it incites hatred against one people. pic.twitter.com/2ZRrMDtfKy

Mahathir also found an opportunity at the event to demonize the LGBTQ+ community with a rant against gay marriage that was approvingly reported in the Malaysian media.

“I don’t understand gay marriage. Marriage is about producing children. Do you get children in a gay marriage? What do they do? They adopt children and things like that,” said Mahathir, who was re-elected as Malaysia’s prime minister in 2018.

Mahathir’s long-held beliefs about Jewish domination of global politics and finance have become one of his defining characteristics as a world leader. Career highlights have included invoking the Nazi stereotype of Jews as “hooknosed” financiers, questioning the extent of the Holocaust during an interview with the BBC, and telling a Muslim solidarity conference with the Palestinians that the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, “were staged…as an excuse to mount attacks against the Muslim world.”

In that same speech, in 2010, Mahathir added pointedly: “[Y]ou know, there are forces in the United States which prevent the president from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby, AIPAC.”

Several protests were made to the Cambridge Union  — Britain’s oldest debating society — in the lead-up to Mahathir’s appearance on Sunday.

Adam Cannon, a former Union president, took to Twitter last week to express his discontent regarding the invitation. “As a former President of the [Cambridge Union]”, he wrote, “I’m appalled that they have invited […] an overt antisemite to speak.”

“Free speech does not mean the Union should be giving him a platform to spout his vile views.”

Peter Sugarman, who was a Cambridge Union president in 1981, told The Jewish Chronicle newspaper: “Just because the Union has the right to invite someone, doesn’t mean that it’s sensible to do so.

“I endorse free speech. However, given Mr. Mohamad’s known antisemitic views, it is sad that the Cambridge Union gave him a platform to express such sentiments. Sadly, it appears that he lived down to expectations.”

Among the student organizations condemning Mahathir’s appearance was the Labour Party’s student branch at Cambridge University. In a tweet, the Cambridge University Labour Club denounced the Malaysian leader as a “vicious antisemite” and declared its “solidarity with British Jews.”  (the Algemeiner) Ben Cohen

The Palestinian Leaders’ War on Preventing Corruption

by Khaled Abu Toameh                   The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14390/palestinians-corruption

  • The Palestinian Authority has chosen to crack down on anti-corruption activists as part of an effort to silence its critics and deter others from demanding transparency and accountability.
  • Stories concerning rampant financial and administrative corruption in the Palestinian Authority do not surprise those who have been reporting on Palestinian affairs in the past two decades. What issurprising is the growing number of Palestinian individuals and groups who are openly defying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior officials by talking about and exposing corruption.
  • What Palestinian leaders are actually telling their people, in other words, is that anyone who complains about corruption is a traitor working with the Americans and Israelis against the interests of the Palestinians. This charge not only carries the death penalty, it brings shame to the accused and his or her entire clan. Palestinians are thus understandably wary of such an accusation.
  • Palestinian leaders not only deny their people the right to institutions of proper governing, they are now doing their best to block any chance of improving their living conditions by boycotting the upcoming Bahrain conference, whose main goal is to offer Palestinians economic prosperity and rid them of failed leaders whose sole interest seems to be enriching their own bank accounts and those of their family members.

A growing number of Palestinians are demanding that the Palestinian Authority (PA) take serious measures to end financial and administrative corruption among its top brass.

Rather than heeding these calls, however, the Palestinian Authority has chosen to crack down on anti-corruption activists as part of an effort to silence its critics and deter others from demanding transparency and accountability. The Palestinian Authority’s measures against anti-corruption activists have angered many Palestinians, who are accusing their leaders of covering up for senior officials suspected of abusing power for their own personal gain.

In the past few days, the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested two prominent anti-corruption activists: Fayez al-Sweiti, Mohammed Ayesh and Saed Abu al-Baha.

Sweiti, who heads a not-for-profit anti-corruption organization, was arrested after he shared on his Facebook page a document accusing senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the

Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs and member of the Fatah Central Committee, of exploiting his job for personal gain.

Although the Palestinian Authority insists that the document is forged, several Palestinians say they have good reason to believe it is authentic.

Sweiti’s son, Saeb, said that more than 20 officers belonging to the Palestinian Preventive Security Force raided his family’s home near the West Bank city of Hebron early in the morning. The officers, he said, confiscated his father’s computer, mobile phone and other documents. They also informed his father that he must report to the office of the Palestinian prosecutor general later in the day.

After being interrogated about the document he had shared on Facebook, Sweiti was ordered held in detention for 48 hours. He was released the following day, however, after widespread protests by Palestinian human rights and anti-corruption activists.

The second anti-corruption activist, Mohammed Ayesh, was arrested on June 12 as he was on his way to work in Bethlehem, his family said. Earlier this month, Ayesh was briefly detained by Palestinian security officers after he asked Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh why his government had arrested Ala’ Bashir, a female Koran teacher from the village of Jainsafout in the West Bank.

The third man, Saed Abu al-Baha, who is also affiliated with Hamas in the West Bank, was arrested for his role in the anti-corruption campaign waged on social media. Shortly before his arrest, he called on Palestinians to take to the streets to demand transparency from their leaders and protest corruption.

The arrest of the anti-corruption activists came in the aftermath of a new scandal that hit the Palestinian Authority in recent weeks. Documents leaked by social media users revealed that the Palestinian Authority government had secretly agreed to increase monthly salaries of its ministers by 67%, from $3,000 to $5,000. The prime minister’s salary, the documents showed, was raised from $4,000 to $6,000. The scandal surrounding the salary hike has seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority, whose leaders this time did not question the authenticity of the leaked documents. The Palestinian Authority has defendedthe controversial decision by arguing that it was taken by the previous government back in 2017.

The Palestinians were not the only ones to protest the decision to raise the salaries of the prime minister and his cabinet members. United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said that he spoke to Prime Minister Shtayyeh, “who committed to end this practice immediately.” Criticizing the secret salary raise, Mladenov added: “At a time when the Palestinian people are struggling with economic hardship, when salaries were cut in Gaza, such decisions defy logic and rightly anger people.”

Another scandal that recently hit the Palestinian Authority concerns nepotism in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry.

A video posted on Facebook last week revealed that the wife of the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Spain is serving as ambassador to Sweden, while his brother, who also holds the rank of ambassador, works as head of the Latin America Department in Fatah’s International Affairs Department.

The ambassador’s daughter, the video revealed, was appointed as a Palestinian “spokeswoman” in Europe, while her husband works as senior aide to the Palestinian foreign minister.

“One family holds all these jobs in the [Palestinian] Foreign Ministry,” said a caption attached to the video. “This confirms the corruption of nepotism inside the ministry. The video also claimed that Foreign Minister Riad Malki, who has been in his position for 12 years, had appointed his brother as ambassador to Colombia. “Is this a foreign ministry or a family ministry?” asked another caption accompanying the video.

Stories concerning rampant financial and administrative corruption in the Palestinian Authority do not surprise those who have been reporting on Palestinian affairs in the past two decades.

What is surprising is the growing number of Palestinian individuals and groups who are openly defying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior officials by talking about and exposing corruption.

More and more Palestinians are stepping up — and risking their lives (and jobs) — by using social media platforms to discuss corruption — an issue long considered a taboo in Palestinian society. For many years, Palestinian leaders managed to divert attention from corruption by directing the heat against, mostly, Israel.

Beleaguered Palestinian officials are again resorting to this reliable old sleight of hand. This time, they are saying that the corruption charges are being made suspiciously close to the announcement of US President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”

Munir al-Jaghoub, a senior official with Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, claimed that leaking the corruption documents is linked to both the Palestinian Authority’s rejection of the Trump plan and the US-led economic conference slated to take place in Bahrain later this month.

This statement is intended to create the impression that the Palestinian Authority is facing some kind of American-Israeli conspiracy because of its rejection of the Deal of the Century. What Palestinian leaders are actually telling their people, in other words, is that anyone who complains about corruption is a traitor working with the Americans and Israelis against the interests of the Palestinians. This charge not only carries the death penalty, it brings shame to the accused and his or her entire clan. Palestinians are thus understandably wary of such an accusation.

The crackdown on anti-corruption activists and the attempt to deter Palestinians from demanding transparency and accountability demonstrates how far the Palestinian leadership is from combatting corruption and preventing its senior officials from abusing power for personal gain.

Palestinian leaders not only deny their people the right to institutions of proper governing, they are now doing their best to block any chance of improving their living conditions by boycotting the upcoming Bahrain conference, whose main goal is to offer Palestinians economic prosperity and rid them of failed leaders whose sole interest seems to be enriching their own bank accounts and those of their family members.