haniyeh in Gaza with rep.
(photo credit: AP)
To the sounds of Allahu Akbar [God is greatest], the new Hamas cabinet on Tuesday won the confidence of the Palestinian Legislative Council after a two-day session that was held here and in Gaza City through video conference.
The cabinet, headed by Ismail Haniyeh, was ratified by a majority of 71 votes. Thirty-six legislators, all members of Fatah, voted against the cabinet, and another two abstained. Altogether, 109 out of 132 PLC members took part in the vote. The remaining 13 legislators, belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], Hamas and Fatah, are all in Israeli prison.
The PFLP, which has three seats in the PLC, was the only group that voted in favor of the Hamas cabinet. The two legislators who abstained belong to the Badil List, which comprises the Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples' [Communist] Party.
Two other parties joined Fatah in voting against the cabinet - The Third Way [two seats], headed by former Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and the Independent Palestine List, which is led by independent political activist Mustafa Barghouti.
Immediately after the vote, several Hamas legislators began shouting the famous Islamic battle cry of Allahu Akbar, saying this was an historical moment for the Palestinians.
Holding high a copy of the Koran, legislator Hamed Bitawi shouted: "The Koran is our constitution, Mohammed is our prophet, jihad [holy war] is our path and dying for the sake of Allah is our biggest wish." His remark drew a thunderous applause from all his Hamas colleagues.
Addressing the council, Haniyeh said he was "moved to tears" by the vote and defended his cabinet's controversial program, saying it was "born straight from the embryo of resistance."
He was referring to critics who accused him of failing to emphasize the need to pursue the fight against Israel in his speech before the PLC on Monday.
"I mentioned the word resistance more than once in my speech," he said.
Haniyeh also called on the US to refrain from issuing statements against the Hamas cabinet and to display a more rational approach. The new prime minister appealed to Palestinians to refrain from referring to him by the title "His Excellency" and to use instead "Brother Ismail."
Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah parliamentary list, expressed hope that the new cabinet would be able to work in harmony with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in light of the differences between the two sides.
"Hamas must understand that running a government is not the same as running an organization," he said. "I want to congratulate brother Haniyeh on the great essay he delivered [on Monday] and which was full of slogans."
Ahmed pointed out that while Hamas's program talks about peace, it does not outline the mechanisms of achieving peace. "We hope they will rewrite the program in line with the requirements of our people," he added.
Fatah legislator Muhammed Dahlan said the cabinet's program was fit for a university student list and not a government. "Hamas must abide by the [PA's] Basic Law and know how to deal with the international community," he said. "We were surprised by Hamas's program because it's neither a program for resistance nor for negotiations."
Following the session, PLC Speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik announced that the new cabinet would be sworn in on after Abbas returns from the Arab summit meeting in Sudan on Wednesday.