Ramamllah, West Bank - The Palestinian president has chosen longtime adviser Mohammed Ishtayeh as his new prime minister, officials said Sunday, a step that further deepens the rift with the rival Hamas group.
President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to announce the appointment later in the day, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.
Ishtayeh, a British-educated economist, is a top official in Abbas’ Fatah movement. He is a former peace negotiator and strong proponent of a two-state solution with Israel. He also is a strong critic of the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah forces in 2007.
The Hamas takeover has left the Palestinians torn between rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank, where Abbas’ Palestinian Authority administers autonomous areas. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.
Ishtayeh will succeed Rami Hamdallah, who had overseen a unity government formed nearly five years ago with the goal of reaching a conciliation deal with Hamas.
Those attempts made little headway, and collapsed a year ago when Hamdallah’s motorcade was almost struck by a roadside bomb in Gaza.
Hamdallah announced his resignation in January after years of failure in reconciliation efforts. Ishtayeh is now expected to appoint a new Cabinet of Fatah supporters.
Ishtayeh, who is in his early 60s, has a Ph.D. in economic development from the University of Sussex, according to his website. He has held a number of senior positions, including Public Works minister and a past peace negotiator with Israel. He currently is head of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, a body that works with international donors on economic development projects in the Palestinian areas.