New PM Rami Hamdallah

Palestinians don’t expect much from incoming PM

Residents of Ramallah see new leader, Rami Hamdallah, who comes from world of academia, as technocrat

RAMALLAH – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will swear in a new government tonight. But incoming Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah does not seem to be the talk of the town.


“The Palestinian street is apathetic now – they replaced Salam Fayyad with another Prime Minister for personal reasons and not for national reasons”, Dia’ Bader, a 47-year-old father of three told The Media Line. After leading the government for the past six years, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is leaving. Fayyad is widely credited in the West for cracking down on corruption and helping build the infrastructure of a future independent state.


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Hamdallah comes from academia and has no government experience. For the past 15 years, he served as the head of An-Najah University in Nablus, expanding the university’s research offerings and making it into the largest university in the West Bank.


Palestinian analysts said Abbas’s choice of Hamdallah is aimed at making the Prime Minister’s post less prominent.


“Choosing an academic means that the presidency institution wants to lessen the glamour of the Prime Minister’s post”, Professor Ahmed Rafiq Awad from Al-Quds University told The Media Line.


A Fatah official, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Media Line that Abbas wanted Fayyad out after disputes intensified between them.


The source added that the resignation of the Finance Minister Nabil Qassis played a role in the latest crisis between the two leaders. Abbas himself was in Fayyad’s shoes when he resigned as Prime Minster under the rule of late leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat was under pressure to appoint a prime minister as a part of reforms in 2003 and analysts believe this created a power struggle between the institutions of the presidency and the prime minister.


“I don’t think he can change much and I don’t expect our situation to improve”, Hanan Taha, a 50-year-old housewife told the Media Line. “I don’t like to talk politics”, she added.

אבו מאזן וסלאם פיאד, הערב (צילום: EPA)

Outgoing PM Salam Fayyad (L) with President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: EPA)


23-year-old university student Wa’el Nazzal also agreed that the new Prime Minister will not bring change to Palestinians, “The Prime Minister’s post is confined by western polices so it doesn’t matter who is in the seat”, Nazzal said.


Bader, a private sector employee told The Media Line “If (US President Barack) Obama was our Prime Minister he wouldn’t be able to achieve anything, particularly in the economic sector, because there are many restrictions. Without a political solution, nothing will be achieved,” he said.


In a restaurant near the old city of Ramallah, Ola Abu Shusheh, an employee at the Paltel telecommunications company was dinning with her friends when she told The Media Line she doesn’t care about politics.


“The game is bigger than us and Hamdallah himself”, she said, adding “(Appointing) an academic who doesn’t have political experience is not a wise decision.”


Some worried that Hamdallah will not stand up to Abbas

“He’s a yes-man who will be an executive and not a prime minister”, said a Palestinian-American businessman who was dinning with group of American friends in Ramallah. The 32-year-old who asked not to be identified said he was a supporter of Fayyad.

Not everyone agreed. Architect Omar Aboudi thinks Hamdallah wasn’t a bad choice but worries that his influence will be limited.


“He succeeded in running An-Najah University and the university’s publicity says it became the first university in Palestine”, Aboudi said. “The problem is that the government is not fulfilling its commitments to people. The post became empty and limited to collecting taxes and giving out salaries”.


In an event in Nablus, Hamdallah said that his term would end in August when political parties Fatah and the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza, should agree on a reconciliation deal that will put Abbas at the head of a unity government and pave the way for new elections.


“I don’t think that the reconciliation talks have died. Along with the new Prime Minister, we can still work on a parallel path to achieve the reconciliation (between Fatah and Hamas),” Issam Baker, a member of the popular resistance told the Media Line adding that the characters don’t matter as much as the policies of the new government.


Aboudi, the architect, worries that the situation could explode if Israel continues to maintain control of the West Bank.


“People are fed up with the fake power we pretend to have under (Israeli) occupation”, he said.

Ahmed Awad form al-Quds University agreed adding that this government shuffle will not solve the crisis facing the Palestinian political system.


“Palestinians have lost interest in ideology and making a living is what they look for nowadays. If the situation doesn’t improve financially, people will take to the street”, he warned.


Article written by Diana Atallah


Reprinted with permission from The Media Line



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פרסום ראשון: 06.06.13, 19:33
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