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Palestinians Give Mixed Reaction to New Prime Minister

Rami Hamdallah, president of al-Najah National University, speaks during a meeting at the university in the West Bank city of Nablus. (File)
The appointment of a new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority by President Mahmoud Abbas has received support from his Fatah movement, but criticism from the rival Hamas movement.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas late Sunday night announced that the head of the West Bank's Al-Najah University, Rami Hamdallah, had been designated to form a new government. He takes over from outgoing Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who resigned in April but had stayed on as caretaker.

Hamdallah told Palestinian radio he would move quickly to form a new government. He said this government will be a continuation of the previous government and the majority of ministers will keep their portfolios. He said it would be part of the reconciliation effort between Abbas's Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, and the rival Hamas movement that has controlled Gaza for the past six years.

Relations between the two groups have been tense since the Hamas takeover in Gaza. Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation accord in Cairo two years ago but it has not been implemented. Last month the two groups agreed to form a unity government by August that would set a date for elections.

Hamdallah, a British-trained linguistics professor, is a member of Fatah. He headed the Palestinian Election Commission for the past 11 years, although he has never run for political office.

Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said the party hoped the designation would strengthen the Palestinian cause. He said the group welcomes the president's decision and hope that it will have a positive impact on the Palestinian people.

A spokesman for Hamas, Fawzi Barhoum, however, condemned the appointment. He said this government is a clone [duplicate] of the previous governments and will not achieve unity for the Palestinian people. He said the appointment is illegal because it was not submitted to the Palestinian Legislative Council, and it does not include all the different Palestinian groups.

The Palestinian Legislative Council has not met since Hamas won controversial elections in 2007 and took power in Gaza the following year. Elections were to be held four years ago, but they have been postponed repeatedly.

Hamdallah is viewed as a moderate and a pragmatist. Analysts say he supports Abbas and, unlike his predecessor, is not likely to challenge him.

The new prime minister is expected to continue Fayyad's efforts to strengthen governance and combat corruption, though, which is a major concern of foreign donors.

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