Author: ADAM RASGON
Posted on May 6, 2017
Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was elected chairman of the Hamas Politburo, outgoing Politburo Chairman Khaled Meshaal said on Saturday.
“It is an honor for me to inform our people, our movement’s members, and our nation…the election of the brother ‘Abu al-Abid’ Ismail Haniyeh,” Meshaal said in a video recording posted on social media, referring to Haniyeh by his tekonym. “I put all of my trust in Abu al-Abid.”
Haniyeh, who hails from the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, was widely expected to be the next top Hamas leader.
The announcement of Haniyeh’s election coincided with the conclusion of internal Hamas leadership elections, which have been ongoing for the past several months.
As chairman of the Hamas Politburo, Haniyeh will have a variety of responsibilities including maintaining Hamas’ foreign contacts. While he still lives in the Shati camp, he may relocate abroad for his new post.
Haniyeh, who has been deeply involved in Hamas and Palestinian politics for decades, is close to both the Hamas leadership in the strip and [the] Diaspora.
Haniyeh has previously served as assistant to Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Hamas liaison to the Palestinian Authority, PA prime minister, and Hamas Gaza chief.
Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip, told The Jerusalem Post that Haniyeh’s election indicates a continuation of Meshaal’s policies.
“I think his election means that he will follow the footsteps of Khaled Meshaal in the next four years,” Abusada said. “Both Haniyeh and Meshaal belong to the same moderate camp in Hamas, which wants to strengthen relations with the so-called Sunni-Arab moderate camp and the international community.”
Haniyeh’s election also came less than a week after Hamas released a new political document in an effort to improve its relations with the region and the world.
The document accepts a Palestinian state along 1967 borders, but rejects recognition of Israel and the Oslo Accords, embraces violent confrontation, and calls for “the full and complete liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea.”
Haniyeh told reporters that the new document “reflects a major development” in Hamas, but also “clings to [Hamas’] strategy and fundamentals.”
It is unclear when Haniyeh will officially assume responsibilities for his new role. Meshaal reportedly will remain in a leadership position in Hamas, serving as chairman of the Shura council, the equivalent of Hamas’ parliament.