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Rami Hamdallah named Palestinian prime minister by Abbas

The career academic replaces Salam Fayyad, an economist who frequently clashed with Abbas.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas named English professor Rami Hamdullah as his new prime minister. (YouTube/Screengrab)

JERUSALEM — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas named academic Rami Hamdallah as his new prime minister Sunday.

Hamdallah replaces Salam Fayyad, an economist who frequently clashed with Abbas and resigned in mid-April despite US efforts to keep him on.

Fayyad stayed on in a caretaker role until Abbas chose his successor Sunday evening.

Hamdallah is the head of the electoral commission and a member of the Fatah Party, unlike Fayyad, who was a political independent.

He is also the dean of An-Najah National University in the West Bank and a British-educated professor of English.

Palestinians and Israelis have received Hamdallah's appointment with surprising nonchalance. Both in Jerusalem and even in Ramallah, the capital city of the Palestinian Authority, the move failed to gain top mention on the evening news reports.

Hamdallah is seen as a positive but benign figure. He is viewed as an Abbas loyalist who will likely consolidate power for the ruling Fatah president.

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His predecessor Fayyad was also a political neophyte when he first came into office. But he had years of international experience and exposure as a senior World Bank executive under his belt.

Hamdallah is a linguist whose career has so far remained in academia. He appeared in the news briefly in 2011, when a member of his university faculty, in Nablus, was arrested for speaking out against the government.

One early test for Hamdallah will be preparing for the expected arrival, next week, of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pushing both sides hard for a good faith renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

He'll also have his work cut out managing the nuts and bolts of the still chaotic Palestinian Authority, which is still struggling to establish its infrastructure and economy.

Hamdallah could also struggle to reconcile Fatah and Hamas into a unity government. Abbas stressed Sunday that he is still open to that possibility.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a Hamas spokesman said that the new government was "illegal" as it was not approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The spokesman said that it was also in violation of previous agreements between the parties.

Hamdallah will be tasked with forming a new government in the coming weeks.

Noga Tarnopolsky reported from Jerusalem. Follow her on Twitter @NTarnopolsky.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/130602/rami-hamdullah-named-palestinian-prime