Abbas Names Shtayyeh New Premier in Effort to Pressure Hamas

(Bloomberg) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas named long-time ally Mohammad Shtayyeh prime minister and asked him to form a new government as part of on-going efforts to squeeze Hamas and deal with geopolitical challenges.

“I wish my brother best of luck in serving Palestine,” senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh said on Twitter.

Shtayyeh will replace Rami Hamdallah, an independent who submitted his government’s resignation in January - just days after Abbas said he wanted a new administration with more representation of Palestine Liberation Organization factions. Hamas is not a member of the PLO.

Shtayyeh takes power as expectations rise for the U.S. to put forward a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. In his letter of assignment to Shtayyeh published on the official Palestinian news website, Wafa, Abbas outlined challenges as moving toward unity with Hamas, protection of the holy places in Jerusalem, and holding legislative elections in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

Shtayyeh, in a separate statement carried by Wafa, said he’s "fully aware of the challenges facing us politically, economically and financially.”

Born in 1958, Shtayyeh is a member of Abbas’s Fatah party. The economist and academic served twice as a government minister and represented Palestinian territories during meetings with donors at annual World Bank meetings, according to information from his office. His experience with Palestinian-Israeli negotiations spans two decades, including the most recent talks initiated by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Hamdallah’s administration was formed in 2014 in a bid to to reconcile governments in the West Bank ruled by Abbas, and the Gaza Strip, governed by the militant group Hamas, that seized the seaside territory in 2007. While Hamdallah’s government included representatives agreed on by both Fatah and Hamas, reconciliation efforts stalled and it never extended its authority over Gaza.

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