PA security questions employees of Abbas rival

Two workers for charity led by former prime minister Salam Fayyad grilled amid crackdown after coup scare

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, seen here when still in office, heads a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 16, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, seen here when still in office, heads a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, April 16, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Two employees at an aid organization run by former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad were questioned by Palestinian Authority security services, apparently under instructions from PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The recent questioning of workers at the Future for Palestine fund, which aims to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged Palestinians, was carried out by the Palestinian Preventative Security Service, rather than the regular PA police, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

Western officials noted that the use of the security service rather than the police indicated that Abbas, a long-time rival of Fayyad, was fully aware of the development.

“There’s no doubt that this process was initiated by orders from above,” said a Western diplomat. “Such things don’t happen just like that.”

According to the Jordanian Jafra News website, PA security agents are looking at Fayyad’s possible involvement in an alleged coup to overthrow the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Two other officials, senior PLO executive committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo and former head of intelligence Tawfiq al Tirawi were also said to face having their bank accounts, personal files, and phone calls “audited.”

Last week Abbas ordered his security services to probe Israeli claims that it had uncovered a Hamas plot to topple him and start a third intifada against Israel.

Abbas indicated the report could severely impact the national reconciliation deal signed between Fatah and Hamas in June, saying it represents “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future,” the Palestinian news Agency Wafa reported at the time.

Since resigning his position in 2013 over disagreements with Abbas, Fayyad has put his efforts into social activism that has reinforced his status with Western officials.

While the questioning of Fayyad’s workers initially looked at the group’s funding, much of which is said to come from the United Arab Emirates — which has poor relations with Abbas — investigators also grilled the employees about the organization’s political aspirations.

The Future for Palestine charity fund was formed several months ago and recently launched a public campaign asking West Bank Palestinians to donate drinking water and equipment on behalf of residents of the war-torn Gaza Strip. The donations were to be delivered to Gaza by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Fayyad played down the significance of the investigation.

“There has been no police search of my office or home,” Fayyad said in a statement to Haaretz. “There has been some activity which I am told is part of an effort on the part of the PA to verify compliance with rules and regulations. In the case of the organization I head, Future for Palestine, I am perfectly comfortable that we are in full compliance and with substantial margin to spare.”

The PA declined to comment on the investigation but officials indicated that the move was related to a reports at the beginning of the week of a special committee that has been formed to look into the activities of civic action groups in the West Bank and Gaza.

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