Abbas announces appointment of longtime adviser Shtayyeh as PM

Choice of peace negotiator and British-educated economist is seen as further deepening rift with Hamas

Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh, June 2011 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh, June 2011 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on Sunday, a senior official said, in a move seen as part of efforts to further isolate Hamas.

Abbas asked Shtayyeh, a member of the central committee of the Palestinian president’s Fatah party, to form a new government, Fatah vice president Mahmoud al-Aloul told AFP.

Official Palestinian news agency WAFA also reported the move.

On Thursday, senior officials said the central committee of Fatah had backed Shtayyeh to take over the post during a meeting earlier in the week.

Shtayyeh, a British-educated economist, is a top official in Abbas’s Fatah movement. He is a former peace negotiator and a strong proponent of a two-state solution with Israel. He also is a strong critic of the Islamist terror group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces in 2007.

The Hamas takeover has left the Palestinians torn between rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank, where Abbas’s Palestinian Authority administers autonomous areas. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.

Shtayyeh will succeed Rami Hamdallah, who had overseen a unity government formed nearly five years ago with the goal of reaching a reconciliation deal with Hamas.

Those attempts made little headway, and collapsed a year ago when Hamdallah’s motorcade was almost struck by a roadside bomb in Gaza.

Hamas on Sunday said the appointment reflected “Abbas’s unilateralism and monopoly of power.”

“Hamas stresses that it does not recognize this separatist government because it was formed without national consensus,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Istanbul, May 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Hamdallah announced his resignation in January after years of failure in reconciliation efforts. Shtayyeh is now expected to appoint a new cabinet of Fatah supporters.

Shtayyeh, born in 1958, has a PhD in economic development from the University of Sussex, according to his website. He has held a number of senior positions, including Public Works minister and as a past peace negotiator with Israel. He currently is head of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, a body that works with international donors on economic development projects in the Palestinian areas.

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