The Obama administration is trying to convince Israel to release arch-terrorist and mass-murderer Marwan Barghouti.
According to the Hamas-aligned Al Quds daily, Washington views Barghouti as its preferred candidate for Fatah to field against Hamas in Palestinian Authority (PA) elections in May 2012.
"A high-profile US delegation has regularly discussed with officials in Tel Aviv the option to free Al Barghouti to lead Fatah against Hamas in the next elections," the sources that the daily did not identify, said.
The Al-Quds report comes as Arab capitals are abuzz with the news that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas will not seek re-election, leaving Washington concerned Fatah has no one to field against Hamas.
However, the release of Barghouti, who was sentenced to five life sentences for as many terror related murders in Israel, and who security services say is responsible for at least 21 other murders, is widely opposed in Israel.
Indeed, even the suggestion that Barghouti might be released as a part of a deal to free 1,027 terrorists in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit created a firestorm of outrage in the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has reportedly refused to Washington's request he release the 52-year old Barghouti, who is called the "Prince of Resistance" in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria due to his pivotal role in both Intifadas.
"Netanyahu believes that Barghouti is an extension of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and that the pair had been involved in the death of dozens of Israelis during the second intifada (uprising)," the sources said.
According to security sources, several Israeli officials, including Binyamin Ben Eliezer, former defense minister Amir Peretz, and top leaders from the security agencies do not object to releasing Barghouti, saying he is "committed to peace."
But observers note that Washington's push to crown Barghouti king in Ramallah in the belief that secular Fatah is a "moderate" party willing to make peace is out of touch with the hard intransigent shift in the PLO ranks.
In recent weeks the PLO has openly proclaimed a strategy based on "continuous efforts along with the international community to secure full recognition and full United Nations membership, pursuing internal reconciliation, and keeping up the popular resistance."
It has also moved to induct Hamas and its Gaza terror confederates into its ranks as they surge in the polls leading to a prediction that, even with Barghouti in the race, Hamas will win a sweeping victory in may.
Nor are the ideologies of Fatah and Hamas divergent. The PLO charter continues to state 'armed resistance' is the only path to an 'indivisible Palestinine' – which leaves no room for the Jewish state.