As the Palestinian Parliament prepares to convene on Saturday, with the Hamas party occupying the majority of the seats for the first time ever, the Hamas leadership has delayed selecting a candidate for Prime Minister until after the Parliament session begins.
A Reuters report that Sheikh Ismail Haniyyeh was selected by Hamas Thursday to be their Prime Minister candidate was later denied by Haniyyeh in an interview with the Qatar based Al Jazeera satellite news channel.
"Hamas is still continuing its internal consultations to determine who will be asked to head the coming government," said Haniyyeh. "Such an important position requires consultations between leaders in the Palestinian territories, in prisons and in exile", he stated, "No official decision has been reached, and when a decision is made, it will be published".
A selection of Haniyyeh as Prime Minister may serve to further alienate the existing leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, and threaten potential negotiations with Israel, which has made a ‘Hamas-free’ government a pre-condition of further talks.
Hamas has said it expects to form its government early next month and announce a political program that will not necessarily be in line with Abbas’ views – potentially triggering a political crisis.
Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak’s spokesman Suleiman Awad this week reiterated Egypt’s call for the unification of Palestinian ranks following Hamas’ shock electoral victory. "This is the time for the Palestinian people to speak with one voice and prove that there is a Palestinian partner ready to make peace," he said.
Hamas nominates Ismail Haniyeh as Palestinian prime minister
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
Hamas on Thursday nominated Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip who is widely viewed by Palestinians as a pragmatist, as the next prime minister, a senior official in the militant group said.
"We have decided to nominate brother Ismail Haniyeh as the prime minister," the senior official told Reuters after Hamas’s elected legislators met in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Mussa Abu Marzuk, the deputy head of the political bureau, confirmed the nomination.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to asked Haniyeh officially to form the government following the first session of the new parliament, which will take place Saturday, via videoconferencing, in Ramallah and Gaza.
In his speech to parliament, Abbas is to lay out the cabinet’s basic policies as well as ask Hamas to recognize agreements with Israel and abandon violence. He is not expected to ask Hamas to recognize Israel.
Haniyeh will have three weeks in which to form the government, and may receive an extension of two weeks, according to Palestinian law.
With Haniyeh’s appointment, the PA cabinet’s activities are expected to move from Ramallah to the Gaza Strip, while the parliament will operate primarily from Ramallah under the leadership of Hamas’ Abdel-Aziz Dweik. With these two appointments, Hamas appears to have decided to appoint its own members to leadership positions following its January election victory.
Haniyeh, 43, headed Hamas’s list of candidates in the January 25 parliamentary election in which the movement, dedicated to Israel’s destruction and riding a wave of popularity over its pledge to fight corruption, scored a landslide victory.
Hamas has said it expects to form its government early next month and announce a political program that will not necessarily be in line with Abbas’ own views – potentially triggering a political crisis.