February 10, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9765

Suspension Of Hospital Construction Project Sparks Rage In Palestinian Authority; Former Minister: Corruption And Lack Of Democracy Are Leading Us To Collapse

February 10, 2022
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 9765

The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership,  and especially PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, have recently faced sharp criticism for freezing the construction of a new Palestinian hospital specializing in the treatment of cancer after extensive public funds have already been raised for this purpose. The cornerstone for the new hospital was laid by 'Abbas himself in a ceremony in January 2016,[1] and in 2018 'Abbas issued a presidential decree establishing the Khaled Al-Hassan[2]  Foundation for Cancer Treatment and Bone Marrow Transplantation, whose purpose was "to assist in the establishment of the Palestinian hospital specializing in the treatment of cancer." However, on January 14, 2022, the Palestinian news agency Qods, known for its opposition to the PA leadership, reported that three days earlier 'Abbas had signed a presidential decree changing the function of the foundation to "assisting in the establishment and/or development of a special [cancer] hospital and/or departments specializing in the treatment of cancer in the public or private hospitals of the state [of Palestine]."[3]  This change, which enables to transfer the funds raised for the new hospital to departments in existing hospitals, was made when vast sums have already been collected for the project from the Palestinian public, including through deductions from the salaries of PA employees.[4] 

PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas laying the cornerstone for the new cancer hospital (Source:, January 7, 2016) 

The report evoked immediate public outrage, and the decision was described as corruption and theft of public funds. Journalist Majed Al-'Arouri, for example, called to establish a national investigative committee; civil society organizations, such as the Popular Coalition for Change, threatened to launch protests against the PA, and a group of Palestinian teachers submitted an official request for the PA to reimburse them for the funds that had been deducted from their salaries for the purpose of building the hospital.[5]

In response to the report and the public outrage it sparked, the PA government issued a clarification. On January 15 the Palestinian Health Ministry announced that the project of building the new hospital had been frozen because the funds raised for it had been insufficient, and assured the public that these funds were safely deposited in the account of the Khaled Al-Hassan Foundation. Two days later, on January 17, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Ishtayeh, explained that, according to the President's new decree, the foundation would open new cancer departments in the PA's public and private hospitals, and devise viable plans for establishing the new hospital at a lower cost.[6] These clarifications, however, failed to allay the concern over possible mismanagement and corruption or the public's anger against the PA.[7]

Against this backdrop, Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former PA minister of Jerusalem affairs, published an article in the Palestinian daily Al-Quds slamming the corruption of the PA and claiming that the incident of the hospital was just one of an "endless series" of scandals and fiascos produced the PA institutions. The main reasons for this, he said, is the absence of democracy and of a parliament that can oversee the PA government, as well as "the adoption of underhand operation methods that insult the public's intelligence." He lamented that the Palestinians have destroyed their state institutions with their own hands and caused a governmental, moral and social deterioration, and called to stop this deterioration before it becomes too late.

It should be noted that, in the recent years, there has been extensive public criticism of the corruption and disorder in the PA, and of its undemocratic measures, manifested mainly in abuses of power by the executive branch, headed by the PA government and President 'Abbas, which is taking over the other branches of government.[8]

The following are translated excerpts from Ziad Abu Zayyad's article: [9]

Former Palestinian Minister: "The Main And Fundamental Problem Threatening The Entire [Palestinian] National Enterprise… Is The Elimination Of Democratic Life… The Adoption Of Underhand Operation Methods That Insult The Public's Intelligence"

"Not a week or even a couple of days go by without the [Palestinian] public finding some issue to discuss, in what can be described as an endless series [of scandals]. All of them have to do with the performance of the PA, not only of the government but of all the echelons of power. Yesterday we were surprised [to hear] various questions [in the media] about the Khaled Al-Hassan Cancer Hospital, whose cornerstone was laid [by PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas] in a festive ceremony [in 2016]. According to the reports, nothing has been done since then on the ground. The project has remained on paper and all the funds that were raised for it are still in the bank, in the best-case scenario, if they haven't been loaned out for other purposes.[10] Before the Khaled Al-Hassan Hospital [scandal] there was the scandal of the inherited positions in the diplomatic corps,[11] and before that [the affair of] the appointment of children and associates of Fatah officials to top positions [in the PA] without transparent tenders providing equal opportunity.[12] The investigative committees [formed by the PA over the years] never published their findings. Nobody is held accountable for the financial corruption, poor administration and legal violations [in the PA].

"I do not want to review all the issues that have been raised and are discussed periodically in the media. It is a long list, which becomes longer every day, and it is probably not exhaustive, since there may be things happening behind the scenes that people do not even know about or do not dare to discuss…

"The impression is that our government operates in a constitutional vacuum, where no parliamentary activity or any oversight or accountability exist. This affords the government freedom to act, and to make mistakes and fix them without limitations or oversight, but it also makes its job harder and fraught with great danger. For oversight and accountability to parliament would have surely improved [the government's] performance and made it less prone to error… 

"If anyone [in the government] believes that acting without oversight or responsibility to parliament is a privilege,  they are very mistaken, and history will have no mercy [on them]. The main and fundamental problem threatening the entire [Palestinian] national enterprise – if it still exists – is the [tendency to] eliminate democratic life and dissolve the [state] institutions instead of building and strengthening them. and to adopt underhand operation methods that insult the public's intelligence…

"Nobody knows everything or is immune to error, and nothing is better than collective action. To this end, human societies have spent centuries developing the concept of consultation and shared decision-making on public issues, and eventually laid down the foundations of democracy and proper governance, which have become the safety valve of modern governments.  

"Unfortunately, we seem to be moving against the current of history. Instead of building up [our state] institutions, we destroyed and are still destroying what we built, and instead of separating the powers, we have merged them until one of them [i.e., the executive branch] took over the others…

"I am not questioning anyone's good intentions or patriotism, but I am convinced that the temptation to wield [unlimited] power and monopolize public funds without oversight is the main cause of corruption…

"We are in a state of disintegration and collapse of all the foundations of governance, and this has [also] affected our social values, since moral and social corruption is rampant [among us], chaos is spreading, social safety has declined and the law of the jungle prevails. If we do not hurry to stop this slide down the slippery slope, history will note that those who steered our [national enterprise] did a poor job of it…"


[1], January 7, 2016.

[2] Khaled Al-Hassan was one of the founders of Fatah.

[3], December 27, 2018, January 31, 2022.

[4], January 14, 2022.

[5],, January 16, 2022.

[6], January 15, 17, 2022.

[7] The Palestinian website Shahed, also critical of the PA, responded to the Prime Minster's statements with a report titled "Ishtayeh Continues to Lie.", January 17, 2022.

[9] Al-Quds (East Jerusalem) January 16, 2022.

[10] Abu Zayyad is hinting that the funds may have been used for other purposes due to the PA's current budgetary crisis.

[11] A reference to 'Abbas' recent appointment of Salam Al-Zawawi as Palestinian ambassador to Iran instead of her father, Salah Al-Zawawi, who had been the ambassador since 1981.,, January 8, 2022.

[12] A reference to the appointment of relatives of Fatah officials Hussein Al-Sheikh and Jamal Al-Muhaisen to high-ranking positions in the PA Health Ministry. Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), June 22, 2020.



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