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Palestinian Memo: Hopes in Obama 'Evaporated'

An internal document circulated among members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' political party says all hopes placed in the Obama administration "have evaporated" because of alleged White House backtracking on key issues to the Palestinians.

The Fatah Party memorandum, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, accuses the United States of backing off from its demands that Israel freeze settlement construction and failing to set a clear agenda for new Mideast peace talks.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the Oct. 12 document reflected Abbas' views or was intended to be leaked as Fatah's attempt to pressure President Barack Obama to bear down harder on Israel.

The document said the Palestinians have lost hope in Obama and accused the American leader of caving in to pressure from pro-Israel lobbyists in Washington.

"All hopes placed in the new U.S. administration and President Obama have evaporated," said the document issued by Fatah's Office of Mobilization and Organization. The department is headed Fatah's No. 2, Mohammed Ghneim.

Obama, it claimed, "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."

Abbas' aides had no comment on the memorandum, and Ghneim couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The Palestinians were encouraged by Obama's election and expected his much-publicized outreach to the Muslim world would soften the strongly pro-Israel positions of his predecessors such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The Fatah document also restated the group's stance that Israel must freeze settlement construction and agree to a clear agenda for talks before negotiations can resume.

The U.S. says it hasn't abandoned these objectives but officials have indicated Washington does not see them as conditions for resuming talks.

Obama's personal intervention last month, when he summoned Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a three-way meeting in New York, failed to break the impasse.

The document echoes sentiments expressed by other Fatah officials. On Sunday, former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan said the party "feels very disappointed and worried by the U.S. administration retreat."

The latest round of negotiations broke down late last year with no breakthroughs on the main issues dividing the two sides: final borders, the status of disputed Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinians who lost homes and other property in Israel after it achieved statehood in 1948.

But the dispute over settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has blocked all efforts to get the sides to talk, let alone solve the intractable conflict.

Netanyahu says some settlement construction must continue to accommodate growth of existing settler populations. He also says all of Jerusalem will remain in Israeli hands, although Israel's annexation of the eastern part of the city and its sensitive holy sites has never been internationally recognized.

The memo comes at a time of great unrest in Fatah over Abbas' short-lived decision to suspend efforts to bring Israel before a U.N. war crimes tribunal in connection with the winter war in the Gaza Strip.

Internally, the Palestinians are as divided as ever, with reconciliation talks between Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and the Islamic militant Hamas group that rules Gaza, on ice.