Video: Hamas: Obama 'will make same mistakes as Bush'

updated 1/22/2009 5:59:14 PM ET 2009-01-22T22:59:14

President Barack Obama's position toward the Palestinians does not represent change and will lead to the same mistakes as his predecessor, a Hamas spokesman said Thursday.

The comments by Beirut-based Osama Hamdan follow Obama's first public comments on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis since his inauguration.

Hamdan tells Al-Jazeera television he expects Obama to experience failure in the region over the next four years if he sticks with his current position.

Obama said Thursday that Hamas must end rocket fire at Israel and Israel must "complete the withdrawal of its forces from Gaza." Although those steps were taken this week, low-level violence has marred the fragile cease-fire that ended Israel's three week offensive in Gaza.

Call for Palestinian reconciliation
Earlier on Thursday Hamas called for reconciliation with supporters of rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but insisted on pursuing "resistance" against Israel.

The condition appeared to preclude any agreement with Abbas, who seeks a peace deal with Israel and whose moderate Fatah faction was not among the groups that backed the statement by eight Damascus-based radical Palestinian factions including Hamas.

The call came days after Israel ended a devastating 23-day war against the Islamic militant rulers of Gaza that Palestinian officials say killed about 1,300 in the territory.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah by force in 2007 and Fatah set up a rival Palestinian government in the West Bank. It has been conducting peace talks with Israel for more than a year.

The eight factions said they will reject any political reconciliation deals that hinder the "continuity of the resistance" against Israel, a condition Fatah is sure to reject.

Israel had no immediate comment.

The U.S. and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group. It is sworn to Israel's destruction, a stance that has brought international efforts to isolate Gaza under its rule.

Abbas' Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made an urgent plea for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, saying the alternative is a permanent rift that will destroy Palestinians' dreams for a state of their own.

"The world would like to help us but everyone says that we should have a national unity government," he said after meeting with donor country representatives in his West Bank office Thursday.

Hamas cool to power-sharing
But Hamas leaders have been cool to suggestions of power-sharing with Fatah after the war.

While they were calling for national reconciliation, senior Hamas officials also insisted Thursday that Hamas have sole control over all international donations to rebuild Gaza, saying Fatah cannot be trusted to handle the aid.

"We have a legitimate government in Gaza that came through a democratic choice, and it is working on the streets, and it is a legitimate body to receive the aid and to rebuild Gaza," Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas official in Gaza, told The Associated Press.

But President Barack Obama said Abbas' Palestinian Authority should control the aid.

"The United States will fully support an international donor's conference to seek short-term humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction for the Palestinian economy," Obama said at the State Department. "This assistance will be provided to and guided by the Palestinian Authority."

Earlier, Sami Khater, a member of the Damascus-based Hamas political leadership-in-exile, said Arab and international donations to aid Gaza should go directly to Hamas and be distributed through an independent Arab body which must supervise reconstruction.

"Frankly, the funds shouldn't go to the Palestinian Authority because, according to previous experience, this authority cannot be trusted," Khater told the AP.

Control of aid at issue
Control over reconstruction funds would put huge sums of aid money expected to flood in from abroad at Hamas' fingertips and could also give the group a measure of international recognition.

Saudi Arabia has pledged $1 billion for Gaza's reconstruction, and the international community has promised massive help.

Israel launched its devastating air and ground assault on Dec. 27 to try to halt rocket fire from Gaza. Both sides ceased fire on Sunday.

For Gaza's reconstruction to begin, blockaded border crossings will have to be opened to allow supplies and aid in. But that remains a thorny issue.

Israel and Egypt have kept the crossings largely closed since Hamas seized power over Gaza in June 2007, choking off most supplies to the tiny seaside territory and trapping most of its 1.4 million people inside. Hamas says the borders must be opened as part of any long-term cease-fire deal.

Some sort of reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions could be key to a workable plan for setting up border controls to stop weapons smuggling to Hamas through the Gaza-Egypt border, a key Israeli demand.

Egypt has said it will only open its border with Gaza if Abbas' Palestinian Authority forces take up positions there, in line with a 2005 agreement.

Hamas has long demanded control over the crossing with Egypt.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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