State Sec'y Kerry Praises P.A.'s New Prime Minister

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised the Palestinian Authority on its appointment of a new prime minister, saying it "comes at a moment of challenge, which is also an important moment of opportunity."

On Sunday, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas announced that Rami Hamdallah would replace outgoing Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad.

Abbas appointed Fayyad in July 2007 after dissolving a 3-month-old Fatah-Hamas unity government following a bloody military coup that left Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip. Abbas appointed Fayyad to replace deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The P.A.'s newly appointed prime minister has no political affiliation or experience. Since 1998, he has served as president of al-Najah University in Nablus (biblical Shechem) and as secretary-general of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission.

In an op-ed entitled "Palestinians: Why Abbas Chose this Prime Minister" posted Monday, Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh calls Hamdallah's  appointment "a big victory for Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction."

"Abbas and Fatah want a weak prime minister who would never pose a threat to their hegemony over the Palestinian issue," Toameh explains.

Meanwhile, Abbas says he remains committed to forming a unity government with Hamas, though Haniyeh blasted the U.S. plan for a $4 billion stimulus for the Palestinian Authority, announced last month at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

"The billions that flow from the American administration come in exchange for political concessions, normalization with the enemy, land swaps, giving up the right to return and the attempt to disguise the reality of the people and the land," the Islamist leader said following Friday prayers in Gaza City.

"They want Palestinians to sell their rights in exchange for daily bread," he said. "They want [us] to forget the sacrifice of martyrs and prisoners for what is called economic peace and for politically tainted money."

Kerry said the plan would boost the Palestinian Authority's GDP by 50 percent within three years and cut unemployment from 22 to 8 percent.

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