Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas government in Gaza said Friday that US President George W. Bush's visit to the region proved his bias toward Israel and hurt Palestinian aspirations for a state of their own.
Haniyeh spoke to reporters after Friday prayers as Bush wrapped up a three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, seat of the Ramallah-based government of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, Haniyeh's rival.
During his visit, Bush laid out US expectations for a peace deal, which he said should be completed this year. He singled out Gaza - which Hamas violently seized in June - as a problem that could not easily be solved in the 12 months remaining in his presidency.
The international community is boycotting Hamas because of its refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce violence.
Haniyeh said Bush's explanation of his bottom lines for a peace deal were based on promises to Israel, and don't serve Palestinian interests.
"Bush gave Israel all the required pledges to solidify its occupation and to wipe out basic Palestinian rights and sacred issues, while he gave the Palestinians more illusions and slogans, and loose words that only express the deception which has characterized this visit," Haniyeh said.
During his visit, Bush urged Israel to end its 40-year occupation of the West Bank and said a Palestinian state should be contiguous, a nod to Palestinian opposition to a state broken into pieces by Israeli settlements and military installations.
At the same time, Bush came out on Israel's side on two important issues, implying that major Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank should remain in Israeli hands in a final peace deal and that Palestinian refugees should not be resettled inside of Israel.
'US bias toward Israel'
Haniyeh said Bush's suggestion that Palestinian refugees receive compensation is unacceptable, and that the millions of refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war that accompanied Israel's creation must return to their original homes inside Israel.
"These concepts are totally unacceptable to us, and can in no way commit our people and the next generations," he said. "The problem of Palestine will remain alive. A short visit of a few hours can't reduce this historic right and shrink the future of Palestinian generations on the land of Palestine."
Haniyeh criticized Bush's characterization of Hamas as an obstacle to peace. "This is sowing the seeds of sedition and is an attempt to create the atmosphere for internal Palestinian wars," he said.
Haniyeh appealed to Abbas not to "slide" behind the US Administration, saying he would be endangering his leadership.