hamas cabinet 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas formally took power Wednesday, with the Palestinian president swearing in its 24-member Cabinet, including 14 ministers who served time in Israeli prisons.
The ceremony, which came just a day after Israel's national elections, ended a two-month transition period of ambiguity since Hamas' election victory in January.
With a Hamas government installed, the lines of confrontation were clearly drawn. Hamas insists it won't soften its violent ideology. Israel's presumed prime minister-designate, Ehud Olmert, has countered that if Hamas won't bend, he'll set the borders of a Palestinian state by himself and keep large areas of the West Bank.
With Hamas at the helm, the Palestinian Authority also faces a crippling international economic boycott.
"With Hamas taking over now, you can't have business as usual," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.
Israel suspended tens of millions of dollars in monthly tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority after the Hamas election victory, and Regev said the Israeli Cabinet would decide on additional sanctions next week.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate from the defeated Fatah Party, administered the oath to some of the Cabinet ministers in a brief ceremony at Gaza City's parliament building. With Israel banning the travel of Hamas leaders between the West Bank and Gaza, the remainder of the ministers held a separate ceremony in the West Bank. The two settings were hooked up by videoconference.
The first to be sworn in was Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who walked along a red carpet, then placed his hand on a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, laid out on a low table. Haniyeh pledged to be "loyal to the homeland and its sacred places." Abbas looked on, his face expressionless.