Palestinian Authority picks Rami Hamdallah as prime minister


RAMALLAH, West Bank — The new Palestinian Authority prime minister is a British-educated academic with no political experience who will be charged with forming the fifth Palestinian government since 2006.

But the tenure of Rami Hamdallah, 54, who has served since 1998 as president of An Najah National University in Nablus, may be short-lived because Palestinian leaders say they hope to form yet another new government in as few as three months.

On Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas named Hamdallah to replace Salam Fayyad, who had served in the post since 2007 before resigning in frustration in April.


Though admired by Western nations for his financial acumen and political reforms, Fayyad, a political independent, was never fully embraced by the Palestinian public and was resented by the two main Palestinian factions, Abbas’ Fatah party and its rival, the Islamist group Hamas.

Hamdallah, who is also a political independent, is widely seen as a caretaker who will run the government until Fatah and Hamas complete their long-delayed negotiations to form a unity government. The two factions split violently in 2007, with Fatah forming a government in the West Bank and Hamas seizing control of the Gaza Strip.

After years of failed reconciliation efforts, officials on both sides announced last month plans to create a unity government of technocrats and political independents by August, and then prepare for new presidential and parliamentary elections, which would be the first since 2006. But it remains to be seen whether a compromise on elections will be reached because the factions remain deeply divided.

Hamdallah is a former English professor who is little-known internationally. His only past government experience was serving as deputy chairman of the Palestinian Central Election Commission in 2011.

He takes over at a difficult time. Lingering budget deficits have beset the Palestinian Authority for more than a year, causing government workers to strike over lack of pay.

The shake-up also comes as U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry is attempting to restart stalled peace talks with Israel.

Sources close to Abbas said Hamdallah is expected to keep most of the government ministers in place.

Officials said Abbas was forced to name a new prime minister because Fayyad’s term formally ended Sunday.

Special correspondent Abukhater reported from Ramallah and Times staff writer Sanders from Jerusalem.