For Rami Hamdallah, this appointment would be the first major foray into the political scene. A career academic, Hamdallah is the president of one of the
largest universities in the West Bank, An-Najah, and has made his career as a leader in Palestinian education. Educated in the United Kingdom, Hamdallah
has sat on the board for a number of regional education organizations. His crossover into
politics centers around an involvement in two organizations: the Central Elections Committee and the Yasser Arafat foundation. Hamdallah has been the
Secretary General of the CEC, the institution charged with monitoring Palestinian elections, since 2002, and has been a trustee and member of the board of
the Arafat Foundation since 2008. The pick of Hamdallah would be slightly unconventional, but not improbable. He's a known quantity, a life-long academic,
and a relative outsider to the political scene. As head of the CEC, he undoubtedly has had a relationship with the Hamas government in Gaza, a government
that let in CEC
monitors this past February to prepare for elections. Appointing a PM with a history of working with Hamas sends a clear signal that reconciliation efforts
are not necessarily off the table.
Muhammad Mustafa, on the other hand, has been a career technocrat. Educated at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Mustafa spent 15 years
working at the World Bank (coincidentally, so did Fayyad). Mustafa has a long-history in Palestinian economics: he was the founding CEO of the Palestine
Telecommunication Company (PalTel), which is now the largest company in Palestine, and he currently heads the state-owned Palestine Investment Fund. Much
like Fayyad, Mustafa's focus is on the Palestinian economy and institutions. His record at the PIF boasts of creating over 25,000 Palestinian jobs and mobilizing more
than 3 billion in investment funds. The similarities between Mustafa and Fayyad abound, and it's clear that an appointment of Mustafa sends a signal of
stability and economic focus to the Palestinian people.
And for Abbas, it appears to be all about what type of signal he wishes to send with the next PM. Early reports add millionaire mogul Munib al Masri and
Fatah footman Azzam al Ahmad to the short list. Both would signal a further consolidation of Fatah control within the PA, but, according to Jonathan
Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, none of the four candidates are likely to push government-wide reforms any further. Rather, says
Schanzer, their appointment would signal that the institution-building and transparency efforts would move to the periphery. Fayyad's efforts were often a
point of consternation for Fatah members within the government. His acceptance of the Finance Minister's resignation late last week--which Abbas refused to
accept--was a case in point. Fayyad challenged the system from the inside, but his efforts weren't always appreciated. Abbas is now likely to ensure that
the next PM is lockstep with Fatah.