- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2009

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) | The proposed new platform of the Palestinians’ moderate Fatah party marginalizes the once central theme of “armed struggle” against Israel, but demands a complete freeze on Israeli settlement before talks for a final peace deal can take place.

The 41-page draft proposal, published Monday, is to be presented for approval this week to Fatah’s first convention in 20 years.

Israeli officials have declined to comment on the Fatah conference.

The failure of Fatah’s leaders to lead Palestinians to statehood and Fatah’s corruption-tainted image have left the party increasingly demoralized.

Yet Fatah remains the West’s only hope on the Palestinian side for a Middle East peace deal.

The new political program, if adopted, gives Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas detailed marching orders for negotiations with Israel.

U.S.-backed talks broke off last year, as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert prepared to leave office over a corruption scandal. Mr. Abbas says he won’t resume negotiations until Israel first freezes settlement construction in the West Bank, a commitment Mr. Olmert’s successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, refuses to make despite growing pressure to do so from the Obama administration.

The Fatah platform says a settlement freeze is a precondition for talks, strengthening Mr. Abbas against possible attempts to get him to back down.

It also says the movement’s goal is a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It rejects the idea, put forth in a Middle East peace plan known as the road map, of a provisional state as an interim step, saying negotiations should have a timetable.

The program calls for a fair solution for the millions of Palestinians displaced as a result of the 1948 Middle East war over Israel’s creation and insists on the refugees’ right of return, as well as compensation.

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