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Analysis: US unhappy over proposed Hamas-Fatah deal

The planned agreement goes some way toward validating Hamas control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas policemen take part in a military ceremony in Gaza, Aug. 13, 2009. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Warring Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have drafted an agreement to end their two-year civil war. But U.S. diplomats oppose the deal. Here’s why.

The planned agreement, a copy of which GlobalPost obtained from senior Palestinian officials this week, goes some way toward validating Hamas control of the Gaza Strip. The 25-page document in Arabic also orders Palestinian security forces, currently being trained by a U.S. general, to “respect the right of the Palestinian people to resist and to defend the homeland and the citizens,” suggesting that attacks against Israeli targets won’t be countered.

The agreement could be a major setback to the Obama administration’s attempt to get recalcitrant Israeli and Palestinian negotiators back into peace talks. Israel is not likely to strike a deal with Fatah if it believes its "partners" in the "peace process" are making nice to Hamas.

The measures laid out in the document suggest Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has succumbed to recent domestic pressure over his handling of a U.N. report critical of Israel’s tactics in the war in Gaza at the turn of the year. Abbas was criticized for dropping plans to push for hearings against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the U.N. report. He has revived those plans, but now also risks a confrontation with the U.S. over a deal that concedes much ground to the Islamist party.

Fatah officials say they signed the agreement already this week, though they added that the text of the deal hasn’t been made public. Hamas has yet to sign the document. By Oct. 25, according to the document, Abbas will ink an order scheduling elections for June next year.

Hamas drove Abbas’s Fatah faction out of the Gaza Strip by force of arms in spring 2007, when the Islamist party also controlled parliament and the prime minister’s post. Since then, Abbas has ruled from Ramallah with a prime minister Hamas says is illegitimate. Both sides have tortured opponents and, according to human rights groups, Hamas has murdered Fatah supporters in Gaza. (The text obtained by GlobalPost includes provisions for the release of political prisoners by both sides.)

The tension between the two factions has been a factor in the stalled peace talks with Israel. The U.S. has pushed for a deal that would end the civil conflict, though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Ramallah earlier this year that any agreement must not allow Hamas a role in Palestinian government. Since Fatah was driven out of Gaza, it has paid wages to government workers there, but ordered them to stay at home.

In repeated negotiations under the auspices of the United States' Egyptian allies, Fatah appears now to have conceded a governing role to Hamas. The agreement calls for a “joint committee” to act as a transitional government over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The committee would be staffed by Fatah and Hamas officials.