The new Palestinian government in Ramallah headed by academic Dr Rami Hamdallah was sworn in on Thursday. The new Prime Minister is very close to Fatah and has led several cultural normalisation activities with Israeli figures and organisations. He is a professor of English linguistics and served as the Dean of An Najah University in Nablus.
Dr Hamdallah has no political experience except taking charge of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission since 2002. He will have two deputies, one for economic affairs and the other for foreign affairs, apparently to make up for his lack of experience.
Palestinians last had a general election in 2006 during which Fatah's main rival Hamas won an overwhelming majority in the Palestinian parliament. Nobody expected the Islamic Resistance Movement to do so well at the time and Hamas has faced an international blockade and siege ever since. In addition, around 50 of its elected parliamentarians were arrested by Israel, which continues to paralyse the work of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Ever since a faction within Fatah attempted an armed coup against Hamas in 2007, backed by Israel and the United States, the Hamas government has been shunned. President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Western favourite Salam Fayyad as his prime minister in a Ramallah-based administration. The elected PLC has largely been ignored ever since.
Attempts by Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and Qatar, to bring Fatah and Hamas together in one government have failed several times. Abbas dismissed Fayyad and his government following criticism from senior Fatah members.
Abbas has said that the new government led by Hamdallah will be in place for weeks or months. "As long as I am in the position of responsibility, it is going to continue and it is going to have my absolute support," he insisted.