Sex Scandals Rocks Palestinian Government

Advisor to President Abbas caught on tape trying to peddle influence for sex.

JERUSALEM, Israel, Feb. 15, 2010— -- The grainy black and white video shows a portly middle-aged man getting undressed and then slipping between the sheets.

A group of men then burst into the room, the man looks startled as the men shout at him and some take photos.

So ended the career of a senior advisor to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. Rafiq Husseini was Abbas's chief of staff and stands accused of trying to peddle influence for sexual favors. He was sacked on Sunday pending a full investigation.

A classic honey trap to ensnare a corrupted official, or according to some in the Palestinian territories, an Israeli plot to discredit President Abbas for his refusal to enter peace talks until Israel institutes a full settlement freeze.

Whichever version you believe it is the dominant story in the Palestinian press and the talk of the town on the Palestinian streets, further damaging the already tarnished reputation of the Palestinian government.

The incident took place in 2008 but the video was aired last week on Israeli television and was part of a broader expose of corruption and sleeze in the Palestinian Authority.

The accusations came from a former Palestinian security official turned whistle blower called Fahmi Shabaneh who led an investigation into corruption. According to his story he became frustrated with the level of wrongdoing and the failure of the Palestinians to do anything about it.

"President Abbas promised to take measures within months," said Shabanah, "but in fact, he left Rafiq Huesseini in his post."

Husseini claims he had been "ambushed by a gang that works for Israeli intelligence and the gang had used the tape to blackmail me financially and politically."

The latest revelations detail accusations of large-scale financial corruption at the top of the Palestinian Authority. Corruption has long dogged the Palestinian government run by the moderate Fatah party and inspired the popular vote against it in elections in 2006 which were won by the islamists from Hamas.

Shabanah's investigations allegedly uncovered nepotism and the funneling of millions of dollars of donor money into private accounts. He said he has dozens of incriminating files detailing his charges.

Abbas established a commission of inquiry Sunday into the latest accusations but the damage may already have been done.

Meanwhile, Shabanah has gone into hiding fearing retribution from agents of the Palestinian Authority. Last week's damning broadcast showed him standing by the grave plot he has recently bought, convinced it will soon be used.