Fatah says faith in Obama is gone

Asserts president caved in to Israel on settlement

By Amy Teibel
Associated Press / October 14, 2009

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JERUSALEM - The Palestinian president’s political party says all hopes in the Obama administration have “evaporated,’’ accusing the White House of caving in to pressure from the pro-Israel lobby and backing off a demand to freeze Jewish settlement.

Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party also accused the United States of failing to set a clear agenda for a new round of Mideast peace talks, according to an internal memo obtained by AP yesterday.

“All hopes placed in the new US administration and President Obama have evaporated,’’ the document said. Obama “couldn’t withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby, which led to a retreat from his previous positions on halting settlement construction and defining an agenda for the negotiations and peace.’’

The Palestinians initially greeted Obama’s election with enthusiasm, welcoming his outreach to the Muslim world and hoping he would depart from what they viewed as the pro-Israel bias of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Obama raised Palestinian hopes further with his repeated calls for Israel to halt all construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem - areas the Palestinians claim for a future state.

But in recent weeks, the United States appears to have softened its stance on settlements. Washington says it has not abandoned the objective of halting settlement construction, but US officials have indicated they do not see this as a condition for resuming talks.

The memo comes at a time of turmoil within Fatah after Abbas quickly reversed a decision to suspend efforts to bring Israel before a UN war crimes tribunal in connection with the Gaza war.

The memo, dated Oct. 12, was issued by Fatah’s Office of Mobilization and Organization. The office is headed by the party’s number two, Mohammed Ghneim.

It was not immediately clear whether the document reflects Abbas’s views or whether it was leaked to pressure Obama to bear down harder on Israel. Abbas’s aides had no comment and Ghneim could not immediately be reached for comment.

The US Embassy in Israel did not immediately return calls seeking comment.