On January 29, 2019, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah resigned. It took several weeks to decide on a replacement as Fatah members contemplated how the choice might affect those jockeying to succeed President Mahmoud Abbas. On March 10, Abbas selected Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh to be prime minister, a person who was viewed as less of a threat in the succession battle because of his lack of a political base or stature in the Palestinian community. Still, some of those looking ahead to replacing Abbas want to limit his power and do what they can to prevent him from becoming the next president. Shtayyeh’s appointment also upset Hamas, which objected to a member of Fatah getting the job, thereby exacerbating the existing rift between the two factions.
Shtayyeh (Arabic: محمد اشتية) was born in Nablus on January 17, 1958. He holds a B.A. in Business Administration and Economics from Birzeit University and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in economic development from the University of Sussex. He worked as a professor and dean at Birzeit from 1989-93, and has published several books on economics, politics and history.
From 1995-98, he served as Secretary-General of the Central Elections Commission and worked with Israel to prepare for the first Palestinian national elections. He later served as minister of public works and housing and president of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR). Since 2005, he has served as a governor of the Islamic Bank involved in determining priorities for development projects.
In addition to being an adviser to Abbas, Shtayyeh has been involved in peace talks with Israel since the 1991 Madrid conference. He is opposed to security cooperation with Israel, however and supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Shtayyeh has also participated in the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee to coordinate donor support for Palestine and is the head of the delegation for multilateral talks with the Regional Economic Development Working Group concerned with problem-solving regional trade, finance and infrastructure issues.
Regardless, of his views, the prime ministers of the PA have had little power. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a close aide to Abbas, told Agence France-Presse, “The government has never been the policymaker here. The PLO is the only side that has to make decisions.” The PLO remains firmly in control of Abbas.
Shtayyeh has a long record of community service, serving on the board of trustees of three West Bank universities, and as a member of several associations. He has also been awarded the National order of Merit by the President of France in 1999.
Sources: “Mohammad Shtayyeh,” Wikipedia;
Ghaith al-Omari, “The New Palestinian Prime Minister Will Face Steep Internal Challenges,” Washington Institute, (March 13, 2019);
“Abbas Picks Ally to be Next Palestinian PM,” The Tower, (March 14, 2019);
Pinhas Inbari, “The New Palestinian Authority Government,” JCPA, (March 14, 2019).