BETHLEHEM, West Bank—Shivering at his desk inside a dilapidated office building housing the Bethlehem branch of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Interior Ministry, Ayman al-Azza feels trapped.
More than 20 years ago, al-Azza, now 48, returned from the U.S. to the refugee camp he grew up in ready to build the promised Palestinian state. Drawn by the optimism surrounding the signing of the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, more commonly known as the Oslo Accords, tens of thousands of Palestinians living abroad did the same. Two frustrating decades later, al-Azza is ready to call it quits. He’s not the only one.
“I’m stuck like I’m in a cage. I can’t get out,” says al-Azza, who still goes to his job every day at the Passports and Residency Department despite not having been paid since November. “It’s a fake economy. There is no economy. Even when they pay, it’s not enough.” Now that Israel is withholding tax revenues over the PA’s decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), the PA has informed its employees that they will only receive 60 percent of their wages next payday. As a result, the father of five fears it will be months until he can pay bills again.