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Barack Obama

TEL AVIV – As Islamist parties gain momentum throughout the region, President Obama has asked Israel to immediately give the Palestinian Authority more control over cities in the strategic West Bank, according to informed Middle East officials.

The officials said Obama’s envoys to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in recent days with officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to express the request.

The officials said the U.S. has made a strategic decision to renew a push now for Israel’s immediate return to the negotiating table to discuss the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern sections of Jerusalem.

Just yesterday, Netanyahu announced he is interested in jump-starting talks with the Palestinians. He also accused the PA of using the recent unrest in the Middle East as an excuse to avoid talking to Israel.

Sources in Netanyahu’s office told WND the prime minister’s announcement came under intense U.S. and international pressure. The announcement was also made in the wake of a recent debate at the United Nations in which Israel’s Jewish communities in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem were slammed as “illegitimate.”

Obama’s move to press Israel to create a Palestinian state comes as WND reported last week the PA has been engaged in an intense effort to convince the Hamas terrorist organization to join it in a new unity government.

Just yesterday, Hamas chief Khaled Meshal said in a public address that the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia brought Hamas back to life, adding that Hamas and Fatah must join forces in a jihad against Israel.

According to a senior PA official who spoke to WND last week, the PA has been sending mediators to Hamas in an effort to persuade it into a unity deal.

The PA is ready to give Hamas full official security control of the Gaza Strip if the Islamist organization agrees to form a unity government, the official said.

In 2007, Hamas seized Gaza from the PA and since then it has maintained a de facto government in the territory. While Hamas largely controls Gaza, the PA still has militias there that are influential in key areas.

The PA official, who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity, said that Hamas would not need to recognize the existence of Israel as a precondition for entering a new unity government.

He said Hamas is being asked to commit itself to previous Palestinian agreements, which would include those signed with Israel, without actually recognizing the specific agreements with Israel. The PA official admitted this request is seemingly contradictory.

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