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Palestinian caught in sex-for-favors scandal

Was Israeli intelligence really behind the video showing an Abbas aide soliciting sex?

Rafik Husseini, chief of staff to the Palestinian president, speaks during a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Feb. 14, 2010. The Palestinian president suspended his chief of staff on Sunday, after allegations by an ex-security officer that he tried to exploit his influence for sexual favors. (Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)

JERUSALEM, Israel — Fans of the Jamaican reggae singer Shaggy will already be familiar with the strategy of a Palestinian official caught with his pants down — actually, with his pants entirely off — in a sex scandal this week.

On his 2001 hit album “Hot Shot,” Shaggy tells a friend caught in flagrante delicto to “Say it wasn’t me” when his girlfriend discovers him naked on the bathroom floor with another woman. That’s just what the Palestinian leadership is doing on behalf of Rafik Husseini, bureau chief to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Husseini was recorded on a hidden video camera stripping naked and attempting to persuade a Palestinian woman to get into bed with him (though one may assume the bathroom floor would’ve done just as well for him.) She had, as far as he knew, come to him needing a job in his office. In fact, the assignation was a sting.

But a sting by whom?

Like everything else in the world of the Palestinian Shaggies, by Israel of course. Except that it most likely wasn’t. That’s just the automatic reaction of Palestinian leaders — like the leadership of much of the Arab world — when they want to discredit someone.

In fact, the sting was set up by Fahmi Shabaneh, head of a Palestinian intelligence unit investigating corruption.

The video that Shabaneh gave to Israeli television shows Husseini disrobing and getting into bed. He speaks to a woman who isn’t seen in the shot: “Do I turn off the light or do you?"

The clip resulted in Husseini’s suspension for soliciting sex in return for favors. His boss, President Abbas, announced a commission to investigate allegations that this wasn’t the first time Husseini used his position to coerce sex.

Husseini’s defense has been to argue in a statement that he’s being targeted by unnamed organizations. He doesn’t mention Israel, but other Palestinian leaders and the Maan news agency have directly accused Israel of being behind the video. Israel’s intention, the argument goes, is to embarrass Husseini’s boss, because Abbas refuses to return to peace negotiations until Israel truly does halt construction in its West Bank settlements.