Abbas expected to tap longtime Fatah ally as next PM, officials say

Ex-minister and peace negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh said to get backing of party’s central committee; appointment seen as part of Abbas’s efforts to isolate Hamas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to appoint his longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister in the next few days after receiving the backing by his Fatah party, senior officials said Thursday.

Analysts view bringing in Shtayyeh to replace outgoing prime minister Rami Hamdallah as part of Abbas’s efforts to further isolate his political rivals Hamas, who run the Gaza Strip.

The central committee of Fatah backed Shtayyeh to take over the post during a meeting earlier this week, the senior officials said on condition of anonymity.

The recommendation is not binding on Abbas, but he is expected to back the decision, the officials said.

Shtayyeh, born in 1958, is a long-term Abbas ally and member of the Fatah central committee.

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

He would replace Hamdallah, who was politically independent.

Shtayyeh has been part of a number of Palestinian negotiating teams in US-brokered talks with Israel, and is a former government minister.

He is also an academic and economics professor.

Hamdallah’s government submitted its resignation in late January, though it has continued on an interim basis.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on October 28, 2018. (Flash90)

Secularist Abbas remains the primary decision-maker and interlocutor with the international community.

Palestinian politics has essentially been paralyzed since 2007, when terror group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’s forces in a near civil war, a year after winning parliamentary elections.

Since then Abbas’s governments have maintained limited self-rule in the West Bank, while Hamas has led a rival administration in Gaza.

The previous government was formed during a period of improved relations and had the backing of Hamas.

This government will instead be dominated by Fatah, though other smaller parties will be represented. Hamas will not be included.

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