Rami Hamdallah, an interim Palestinian PM who lasted

The little-known teacher-turned-politician receives the backing of both Fatah and Hamas

A handout picture released by the Palestinian Authority president's office shows Mahmoud Abbas (right) meeting with Palestinian Premier Rami Hamdallah (left) in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/PPO/HO)
A handout picture released by the Palestinian Authority president's office shows Mahmoud Abbas (right) meeting with Palestinian Premier Rami Hamdallah (left) in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/PPO/HO)

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who stays on in his current post to head the first Palestinian unity government in seven years, is a respected academic who is little-known abroad.

Hamdallah was first appointed to the position of premier in June 2013 after his predecessor Salam Fayyad resigned.

Although he submitted his resignation over a cabinet power struggle, he stayed on in the job and has now taken over the reins of the first Palestinian government of national unity since 2007.

Pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi has described him as a “solid, upright man with patriotic principles” who had been dropped into “the jungle of the Muqataa [the president’s headquarters] among the lions and hyenas.”

But the university professor has managed to impose himself upon the volatile Palestinian political scene, despite initial predictions by the Israeli media that he was on a “suicide mission.”

A political independent, but known to be close to the Fatah movement of president Mahmoud Abbas, Hamdallah is hailed as a moderate pragmatist, although he lacks Fayyad’s international recognition.

Born in 1958 in Anabta, near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, Hamdallah has been president of Al-Najah University of Nablus, the largest in the territories, since August 1998.

The 55-year-old has won plaudits for his management of the university of nearly 20,000 students, and also enjoys great respect with the public as well as in official Palestinian circles.

And he has been accepted by both Fatah and the rival Hamas movement, which governs Gaza, as the head of the new unity government.

After an April 23 reconciliation deal aimed at bringing a years-long political split to a close, Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PLO agreed on Hamdallah as premier at least until parliamentary elections take place within six months.

Hamdallah takes his seat at the helm of a 17-strong cabinet of technocrats, five of them from Gaza, which is ultimately answerable to Abbas.

Bespectacled, with short hair and neatly trimmed moustache, Hamdallah has a master’s degree in linguistics from Britain’s Manchester University and a PhD from Lancaster University.

He began teaching at Al-Najah’s English department in 1982 and also served as dean of the arts faculty.

Nearly 20 years later, just after the millennium, Hamdallah suffered a personal tragedy when his son and two of his daughters were killed in a collision with an Israeli truck, and his wife, who was driving, was seriously injured.

His career has not been purely academic, though, with Hamdallah gaining some valuable grounding in economic issues during a stint as chief executive of the Palestinian Stock Exchange from 2008.

He also serves as the secretary general of the Central Elections Commission.

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