JERUSALEM — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday appointed the president of a large West Bank university to serve as his next prime minister, replacing Salam Fayyad, who resigned in mid April.
The appointment of Rami Hamdallah, 54, a professor with no previous experience in government, ended the vacuum created by Fayyad's resignation over internal differences. Fayyad, an internationally respected economist, had agreed to stay on as a caretaker prime minister for a short period.
In the longer term, however, the political outlook for the Palestinian Authority remained hazy. In announcing the appointment, the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, said that Abbas remained committed to the reconciliation agreements his Fatah Party has signed with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, and that he was eager to stick to the timetable agreed upon in Cairo.
The two sides met in the Egyptian capital last month and agreed to form a technocratic unity government within three months to pave the way for elections. Palestinian officials and experts said that the Cairo timetable aimed for the formation of a unity government by sometime in August, while the Wafa announcement on Sunday did not specify any dates or deadlines, leaving Abbas some leeway.
But Fatah and Hamas have failed to carry out their previous accords, which have remained only on paper. Hamas is wary of elections while Abbas has his relations with Israel and the West to consider.
Secretary of State John Kerry is in the midst of an intensive effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Israel has said that a Palestinian unity government with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, would contradict peace efforts.