NABLUS, Palestine: Prime minister Rami Hamdallah, who stays on in his current post to head the first Palestinian unity government in seven years, is a respected academic who is little-known abroad.
Hamdallah, 55, was first appointed to the position of premier in June 2013 after his predecessor Salam Fayyad resigned.
Although he submitted his resignation over a cabinet power struggle, he stayed on in the job and has now taken over the reins of the first Palestinian government of national unity since 2007.
The Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper has described him as a “solid, upright man with patriotic principles” who had been dropped into “the jungle of the Muqataa [the president’s headquarters] among the lions and hyenas.”
But the university professor has managed to impose himself upon the volatile Palestinian political scene, despite initial predictions by the Israeli media that he was on a “suicide mission.”
A political independent, but known to be close to the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamdallah is hailed as a moderate pragmatist, although he lacks Fayyad’s international recognition.
Born in 1958 in Anabta, near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, Hamdallah has been president of Nablus’ Al-Najah National University, the largest in Palestine, since August 1998.
He has won plaudits for his management of the university of nearly 20,000 students, and also enjoys great respect with the public as well as in official Palestinian circles.
He has been accepted by both Fatah and the rival Hamas movement, which governs Gaza, as the head of the new unity government, at least until parliamentary elections take place within six months.
He began teaching at Al-Najah’s English department in 1982 and also served as dean of the arts faculty.
Nearly 20 years later, Hamdallah suffered a personal tragedy when his son and two of his daughters were killed in a collision with an Israeli lorry, and his wife, who was driving, was seriously injured.