Mohammad Shtayyeh - Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayeh as prime minister and asked him to form a new Palestinian government, in a sign of potentially renewed discord between the Palestinian leader’s party and the rival Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas.

Abbas received 60-year-old Shtayeh in his office on Sunday afternoon and, in a decree published by Palestinian Ma’an news agency, appointed him as the Palestinian prime minister with the task of forming “the 18th government during the given period.”

Shtayeh, who holds a doctorate in economy and development from Sussex University, is a member of the Central Committee of Fatah, the ruling Palestinian nationalist political party led by President Abbas. He has also been the minister of the Palestinian economic council for the past decade.

Shtayeh’s government will replace the outgoing Rami Hamdallah’s government, which resigned in late January but continued as a caretaker government.

Hamdallah was politically independent and his government was formed during a period of improved relations between Fatah and Hamas. The resistance movement had even expressed support for the outgoing premier and his government.

In the decree, Abbas said the mission for the new government would be to speed up reuniting the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip as well as to work toward holding legislative elections in the West Bank — including East Jerusalem al-Quds — and the Gaza Strip to boost democracy.

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The Palestinian leadership has been divided between Fatah and Hamas since 2006, when the latter scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in Gaza. Hamas has since been running the coastal enclave, while Fatah has been based in the autonomous parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Previous reconciliation attempts by the two sides to form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have failed.

Shtayeh’s government is expected to be dominated by the ruling Fatah, though other parties will be represented. Hamas is not expected to hold a share in the new government.

According to law, Shtayeh has three weeks to form a new government. The deadline, however, can be extended by two more weeks if necessary.

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