The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday appointed a professor with no prior political experience, as his new Prime Minister ending months-long political uncertainty following the resignation of Salam Fayyad.
The appointment of Rami Hamdallah, 54, a professor of linguistics and the dean of al-Najah National University in the West Bank, is expected to bolster the political influence of Abbas and his Fatah party.
Hamdallah, described as a “moderate” and “close to Fatah” by the media replaces Fayyad, who resigned in April following a bitter battle with Abbas on economic policies.
Fayyad, 61, a U.S. educated and internationally respected economist was the Prime Minister of Palestine Authority since 2007. He agreed to continue as a caretaker prime minster till the post was filled.
Hamdallah is expected to remain as prime minister until a unity government is formed with Hamas as decided in the unification talks among the two sparring Palestine factions. The new prime minister is tasked with forming a new government.
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"President Abbas has designated Rami Hamdallah to form a new cabinet," an official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Hamdallah is taking charge of the country amid a severe economic crisis and his first major challenge will be to safeguard the fragile economy, largely dependent on western funding. Hamdallah is little-known outside the Palestinian territories and it will be a huge challenge for him to convince the U.S. and European donors.
The Palestine Authority and Hamas had split in 2007 with the latter taking control of the Gaza strip and former of the West bank. Both the warring factions, announced in May the formation of a unity government by August under which new elections would be held.
Hamdallah will also have to deal with the political crisis that is likely to emerge, if the reconciliation process with Hamas fails and elections are delayed. Political analysts find this possibility the most likely outcome since previous efforts to reconcile the sparring factions have repeatedly failed.
Announcing the appointment, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, said Abbas is committed to the ongoing reunification talks with the militant Hamas group that controls Gaza.
Hamas rejected the appointment of Hamdallah, terming it illegal and breach of a reconciliation agreement reached among the two enclaves in Cairo.
“This Cabinet does not represent the Palestinian people,” Hamas government spokesman Taher al-Nunu told the Associated Press. “The status of the new Cabinet is illegal.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the prime minister's appointment.
"His appointment comes at a moment of challenge, which is also an important moment of opportunity," BBC quoted Kerry as saying in a statement.