RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians were shocked on Thursday after Israeli TV aired a graphic video showing a senior official caught on a hidden camera soliciting sex from a job applicant.
The video, parts of which aired on Israel's Channel 10 earlier this week, was shot by former Palestinian intelligence officer Fahmi Shabaneh, who has accused the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of widespread corruption.
In the video, Rafiq al-Husseini, president Mahmud Abbas's chief of staff, is shown flirting with a woman Shabaneh said was seeking a job in the Authority before entering a bedroom, taking off his clothes and crawling into bed.
"How does this work? Should I turn off the lights or will you," he chuckles from inside the room to someone off-screen in the video, now widely available on youtube.
Moments later Shabaneh and several other security men walk into the room, surprising a naked Husseini, who holds British citizenship, and confronting him with the allegations.
The video was shot sometime in 2008.
Whistle-blower Shabaneh said he was releasing it now because the Authority had refused to act on his investigation of top officials who he accused of stealing millions of dollars of public funds.
The Palestinian Authority is up in arms over the report, and attorney general Ahmad al-Mughanni on Wednesday threatened to pursue "legal action against Israel's Channel 10 for circulating lies and false claims."
In the face of public shock, he said Shabaneh had been dismissed from the security forces and was wanted on a number of criminal charges.
"(Shabaneh) is wanted in connection with a number of cases, including selling land to foreign entities, attempted murder, assault and threatening national security," he said in a statement, without providing further details.
"He left the territories some time ago and does not enter them because he knows he is wanted for a number of crimes."
Shabaneh lives in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, and so is outside the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. He could not be reached for comment.
Abbas's Fatah movement also rejected the allegations and said the report was part of an Israeli plot to pressure him into relaunching peace negotiations suspended for over a year.
Tayyeb Abdelrahim, another top aide to Abbas, slammed what he called a "mad campaign launched by the Israeli media," insisting the report was "lies" and the images were "fabrications."
The Islamist Hamas movement seized on the report as proof of its allegations of corruption within the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which it expelled from Gaza when it seized power in the territory in June 2007.
"These sorts of bad leaders, whether their names are mentioned in the report or not, do not represent the Palestinian people, but work for their own interests and their own whims," the group said in a statement.
"This is what hinders national reconciliation and the resistance to the occupation. They should be dismissed and brought to justice."
The Palestinian Authority has long been accused of corruption, and in 2006 an official inquiry discovered that 700 million dollars had been pilfered from its coffers.
The situation is believed to have improved since Salam Fayyad, an internationally-respected former World Bank economist, was appointed prime minister in 2007 following Hamas's seizure of the Gaza Strip.
Since then Fayyad's efforts have been praised by the international community and the Palestinians have received billions of dollars in aid, mostly from the European Union and United States.
It was not clear whether Shabaneh's other findings cover the period before or after Fayyad's appointment, but he said if Abbas did not act on the allegations he would publicise more incriminating evidence in coming weeks.
The following Israel Channel 10 news video was taken from YouTube:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/mWDd_Chh1h0&hl=en_US&fs=1& expand=1]