Abbas fires all of his advisers, demands bonuses returned

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday laid off all of his advisers and ordered a former prime minister and other ex-Cabinet ministers to return tens of thousands of dollars from an illegal pay raise he had secretly approved.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

Palestinian officials said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decisions to fire all his advisers and demand they return huge pay raises, announced in official statements, came as part of efforts to cut costs and recuperate funds.

Earlier in the year, the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) refused to accept tax revenues when Israel withheld sums equal to funds used for terror salaries, which the P.A. pays both to incarcerated criminals who commit murder and other violent terror crimes and to the families of those killed committing such crimes.

The Palestinian government has long faced charges of corruption and mismanagement and Abbas has cycled through dozens of advisers since he first took office in 2005, with many continuing to receive salaries and benefits after leaving office.

Abbas is currently in the fourteenth year of what was initially a four-year term, and has refused to hold elections since he took control of the P.A. presidency.

The officials said Abbas would reinstate some advisers in the coming days. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Lavish payouts, 67% raises, inflated exchange rates

In a separate decision, Abbas ordered former Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and other Cabinet ministers to return bonuses the president had approved in 2017.

Documents leaked earlier this year showed that the technocratic former Cabinet gave its members lavish payouts. The documents showed that ministers’ pay had climbed from $3,000 a month to $5,000 — a 67% raise — and that the prime minister’s salary was raised to $6,000 a month.

Abbas had secretly approved the raises, overriding a 2004 law fixing ministerial salaries. The raises were applied retroactively to 2014, when the Cabinet took office, resulting in bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars.

A $10,000 housing bonus intended for ministers living outside Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, was given to all ministers, including those with homes in Ramallah. The government also inflated the exchange rate, giving them a 17% premium.

The revelations have angered many Palestinians, with the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority slashing salaries of government employees.

Hamdallah defended the payments when the documents were leaked in June, saying Abbas approved the request after taking into account rising costs of living. There was no immediate comment from him after Abbas asked for the money back.

After years in office, Abbas has seen his popularity plummet. Palestinians are disillusioned by his failure to deliver on many of his promises, his loss of the Gaza Strip to the rival Hamas terror group and general economic malaise.

Unemployment among Arabs in Palestinian-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria is near 20%, and a typical salary for those who do work, such as civil servants, is roughly $700 to $1,000 a month.