Abbas’ Alleged New Jet Shows How Islamism Spreads

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Illustrative picture. (Photo: SuperJet International/Creative Commons)
Illustrative picture. (Photo: SuperJet International/Creative Commons)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 12th year of the four- year term he was elected to serve, has reportedly purchased a $50 million private jet. The report was published without sourcing in the media outlet Hadashot. The jet will allegedly be stored in Jordan’s capital Amman for use by Abbas.

This extravagance is despite the alleged penury of the Palestinian people. Palestinian leaders are currently slamming America over U.S. President Trump’s decision to suspend $65 million in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides support for Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA has been accused of acting like a virtual front for Hamas.

UNRWA is all we have,” Ahmad Abu Salem of the Aida camp near Bethlehem told left-wing outlet Mondoweiss. “We don’t have any alternatives if they continue cutting services. Without UNRWA we have nothing.”

If that’s true — and the new multi-billion dollar Palesinian city of Rawabi suggests that Palestinian economic prospects are far better than their leaders say — why is the Palestinian leadership purchasing a multi-million dollar private jet?

Fair enough, he needs to get around and it’s reasonable to a person in his position to have a private plane. It could be dangerous to fly commercially. But why so much?

Fifty million can buy you a seriously luxurious jet. Just feast your eyes on the the dazzling Embraer Lineage 1000E. The $53 million price tag nets you over 800 square feet of penthouse-in-the-sky. But a genuine man of the people would surely be able to make do with something a little more modest, especially in these dark times.  

Clarion’s research team easily found a second-hand Lear Jet for the comparatively bargain price of $395,000. It seats eight, which should be enough for two or three other senior officials, a couple of aides and some bodyguards. Abbas would’ve even got good press for having solidarity with his struggling compatriots.

Abbas, of course, is not a man of the people. He is a corrupt, octogenarian dictator. Even if this particular story about the jet turns out to be false, there is plenty of other evidence as to the man’s corruption, such as the $13 million presidential palace he lives in. And it’s support for precisely these kinds of secular, nationalist dictators that boosts support for Islamism around the Muslim world.

“We all known there’s terrible corruption in the PA,” a senior veteran journalist from Ramallah, the de-facto capital of the PA in the West Bank, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “We know hundreds of stories about senior PA officials and about Abbas’ sons, but we can’t publish them or even talk openly about them.”

Anyone who does speak up faces jail time or worse.

So who can the Palestinian people turn to when secular nationalists fall into miserable decay, offering nothing to their publics but vicious authoritarianism and naked cronyist looting?

Well, after being fed incitement against Israel and the Jews 24/7 by the Palestinian Authority’s media, the logical place is Islamism.

As Time magazine explained back in 2001, “One of the keys to Hamas’s popularity is its large-scale welfare arm. Hamas provides educational, medical and other desperately needed welfare services in impoverished West Bank and Gaza towns and refugee camps, creating a marked contrast with the image of corruption and cronyism most Palestinians have of Arafat’s administration.”

Of course, Hamas is hardly less corrupt than the PA. Hamas leaders have amassed billions in personal wealth while ruling Gaza, despite the abject poverty experienced by many residents of the strip. Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas’ political wing, has an estimated worth of $2.6 billion.

Yet, they were able to get there in part by presenting themselves as committed ideologues untarnished by the grubby financial interests of the Palestinian Authority.



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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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