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Shake-up in Palestinian diplomatic corps
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post

Most of the Palestinian ambassadors abroad will be replaced soon as part of a major shake-up in the Palestinian diplomatic corps.

The ambassadors were all appointed by former PA chairman Yasser Arafat and Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO`s unofficial foreign minister, on the basis of political loyalty. Many have been serving in their jobs for decades.

PA Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa said 22 ambassadors have been retired and would return home by the end of the month. Another nine ambassadors who were appointed recently will continue to serve for a period that won`t exceed four years.

`We will have new and young faces, as well as women, in the reconstructed Palestinian diplomatic corps,` he said. `The changes will later include other diplomats and embassy employees.`

Kidwa said the reforms were designed to improve the conditions of the Palestinian diplomats and make sure that some of them don`t have other sources of income.

Abbas has been under heavy pressure to get rid of many of the Palestinian ambassadors for their alleged involvement in corruption.

Prominent Palestinian political analyst Jamal Majaida described the situation in the Palestinian embassies throughout the world as `scandalous.` He disclosed that many of the ambassadors had acquired the citizenship of Arab and foreign countries and were involved in financial corruption.

`Some of the ambassadors are responsible for corruption in their embassies and are running them as private fiefdoms,` Majaida added. `They are trying to exploit their jobs at the expense of Palestinian blood.`

He pointed out that one of the ambassadors in the Gulf who felt that he was about to be sacked had seized assets belonging to the embassy and turned them into his private property. `He and his family are now in full control of the embassy, including the air,` he said. `It`s high time to put an end to this fatal chaos that is bringing disaster to our people.`

Dr. Ala Abu Amer, a former senior PA Foreign Ministry official, said he had received complaints from many Palestinians living abroad about the behavior of Palestinian ambassadors and their staff.

`Most of the people working in the diplomatic corps are academically unqualified and have no experience in diplomatic work,` he said. `Some of our diplomats are veterinary doctors, physicians, carpenters, engineers or barbers with no training.`

PA officials said the latest changes in the diplomatic corps had been delayed following a sharp dispute between Abbas and Kadoumi, who considers himself the de facto Palestinian foreign minister as part of his official position as director of the PLO`s `political department.`

Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunis, has vowed to scuttle Abbas` attempts to dismiss many of the ambassadors under the pretext that the PA chairman has no jurisdiction over the diplomatic corps.

The Palestinian ambassadors were recently summoned to Ramallah to discuss the new Diplomatic Corps Law, which regulates the work of the embassies. The law aims at introducing `new blood` into the Palestinian diplomatic corps and allocating sufficient budgets for the embassies and diplomatic missions.

According to the law, those working at the same diplomatic mission for more than four years will be transferred to another one. This change affects many diplomats who have been working at the same embassy for more than two decades.

Only 14 of the 88 Palestinian ambassadors have been in their positions for less than four years. The law also introduces new positions at diplomatic missions, such as an economic attach and a commercial attach .

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