Mohammed Ashtiyeh: Academic, Political Economist, Expected to Revive Leading Role of State Institutions
The new Palestinian prime minister, Mohammed Ashtiyeh, did not choose to go to his office on the first official working day on foot, just because he loved this kind of sport. He wanted to send a key message through a single picture: “This is a new era.”
He knows that many difficult tasks await him: the restoration of Gaza, national unity, the difficult financial situation, institution-building, confronting Israeli policies, and others; but he was smart when he said he did not have a magic wand. He focused instead on one point: “The government came to serve the Palestinians, wherever they are.”
Mohammed Ashtiyeh was born in the village of Tal near Nablus in the northern West Bank in 1958. He completed his studies in the small village and moved to Birzeit University to obtain a Bachelor's degree in economics and business administration in 1976. He immediately moved to Britain, where he received a Master's and PhD degrees in Economic Development Studies from the University of Sussex, before returning to the Palestinian territories in late 1980. Ashtiyeh worked as editor in the Al-Shaab newspaper, which was published in Jerusalem and financed by the Palestine Liberation Organization. He then served as professor and dean at Birzeit University.
In the early 1990s, Ashtiyeh participated in the delegation of the PLO to the Madrid negotiations, the Washington talks and the economic negotiations with Israel. After many years, he held several ministerial posts, headed the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR), served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Arab American University, and as a member of the Boards of Trustees of several universities.
In March 2002, Ashtiyeh witnessed the establishment of the Monaco Club, headed by Prince Rainier, and became a member. This informal club includes individuals and personalities of political weight in the world. In December 2002, he was awarded the World Innovation Foundation, which focuses on global cooperation through scientific economic cooperation, and most of its members are Nobel laureates.
Ashtiyeh was elected member of the Fatah Central Committee in 2009 and participated in the launching of “final status settlement” negotiations in Washington in 2010. From 2005-2009, he served as Minister of Public Works and Housing. He also founded the National Institute of Information Technology and the National Institute of Management to train the cadres of the Authority, improve performance and contribute to the reform process. He also served as Governor of the Islamic Development Bank for Palestine in 2006. He was awarded the Order of National Merit of the rank of “Knight” presented by French President Jacques Chirac on May 31, 1997.
Referring to reports on the US peace plan, which is said to be based on economic initiatives for Palestinians, Ashtiyeh said: “The Palestinians do not want economic peace. We want to end the occupation. You cannot live under occupation.”
These positions are a reflection of those of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The new Palestinian prime minister is in fact considered one of Abbas’ close associates. He was chosen specifically because he is an academic, political economist, very calm, organized, and an expert in institutions. Fatah members are counting on him to restore the role of leading the state institutions.