Hamas made its first parliamentary appointments on Wednesday in preparation for the opening of Parliament on Saturday, as Israeli officials declared that a Hamas-led Palestinian government would make it part of the ‘Axis of Evil’.
After choosing Mahmoud al-Zahar from Gaza to be the Majority leader Wednesday morning, the Hamas leadership went on to appoint Aziz Dweik, from the West Bank, was chosen by Hamas as parliamentary speaker.
As the leader of parliament, Dweik would become interim president, pending an election within 60 days, in the event of the death, resignation or incapacitation of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah faction.
The appointments raised speculation that Hamas would choose another of its leaders, Ismail Haniyeh, as prime minister, a choice that the now-minority Fateh Party leadership has said would render a coalition government impossible.
With negotiations pending between the two major Palestinian parties, it is still unclear exactly how a majority Hamas Palestinian government will look, and whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will manage to arrange an avenue whereby talks with Israel can continue.
While Israel Defense Minister has called the new Palestinian government a part of the ‘axis of evil’, an earlier decision to withhold Palestinian tax money (regularly seized and held by Israel) was reversed Wednesday.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is involved in consultations this week that one official said would focus on "funding for the Palestinian Authority in the Hamas era".
Israeli officials have said Israel is trying to persuade donor nations to cut off support for the Palestinian Authority once a parliament dominated by Hamas is sworn in.
The United States and Israel hope to isolate a Palestinian government headed by Hamas financially and diplomatically to pressure it to renounce violence, recognize the Jewish state and honor interim peace agreements, the Israeli officials said. Hamas leaders have responded to the demands by saying that the onus is on Israel to respect past agreements by halting the expansion of settlements and the building of the Wall, and define its own borders before it can be ‘recognized’ as a state.
Palestinians receive about $1 billion a year from all donors and the Palestinian Authority requires at least $100 million a month. Palestinian officials have said they expect Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Arab states to boost the amount of support they provide to the authority in the coming months.