It’s a well-known fact that the Palestinian Authority has a long history of greed and corruption. The Palestinian people suffer under the PA’s control while officials line their own pockets, mismanage funds, and leave the people in their domain to fend for themselves. Gabi al-Tawil, the Palestinian Ambassador to Cyprus, is a perfect example. His shameless corruption and embezzlement schemes are something to behold.
Al-Tawil received presidential grants of 6,000 euros to be distributed to Palestinian students and refugees each month. Mysteriously, over 100,000 euros dedicated to this program between 2018 and 2019 vanished – never making its way into the hands of those for whom it was designated. During this time period, 144,000 euros should have been distributed in Cyprus. However, only 30,000 euros actually were. Where did the remaining 114,000 euros disappear to if not directly into al-Tawil’s pockets?
This discrepancy came to light at the beginning of 2020 when several Palestinian factions contacted the President about potential corruption pertaining to the presidential grants for Cyprus. President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Fund begin an investigation, but work was halted for an undisclosed reason. Perhaps the fact that al Tawil is married to former PA President Yasser Arafat’s sister shielded him from scrutiny.
As the Palestinian government closed in on proving that al-Tawil was embezzling government funds, al-Tawil began covering his tracks by distributing the money to students in Cyprus to create receipts and prove that he had been issuing the money as ordered. However, even with the dispersal of an additional 20,000 euros to Palestinian refugees in Cyprus, al-Tawil still embezzled large sums of the refugee aid money, amounting to at least 190,000 euros over the course of his tenure as ambassador.
Refugee funds were not the only money inappropriately handled by al-Tawil. The Palestinian embassy provides an additional 5,000 euros meant to help with embassy costs. Al-Tawil used these funds to pay for his house, food bills, and other personal expenses. He also paid for the expenses of Basman al-Khatib, his Chief Financial Officer. Of the money allotted over the course of al-Tawil’s time as ambassador, only one-tenth of the funds meant to handle embassy expenses were used as intended.
What else has al-Tawil used government funds for? It is estimated that restaurant charges from just the month of October 2019 added up to around 6,700 euros. He also claims to pay 10,000 euros per month for his home, far above the estimated rent of about 3,500 euros. Additionally, al-Tawil spends over 20,000 euros on his family’s two drivers, three housemaids, three secretaries, and three modern cars. This pattern of self-enrichment through government funds is serious cause for concern even by the low standard that can be applied to PA officials.
This barely scratches the surface of PA corruption, but if one official can get away with such blatant corrupt conduct without consequence, just imagine what others in power might be getting away with. We must not let this greed at the expense of the Palestinian people go unnoticed. We deserve better from our officials.
Bassem Eid, a political analyst and TV and radio commentator, is Chairman of the Center for Near East Policy Research