President Obama touring Egypt’s pyramids (White House photo)

JERUSALEM – President Obama’s administration has been “putting the screws” on Israel as part of a larger strategy of enhancing U.S. ties with the Arab world, according to an assessment from a senior aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Generating this controversy and pressure on Israel regarding settlements right before his address last week to the Muslim world was a way for Obama to spruce up his credentials with the Arabs,” said the aide, who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity.

“This seems to be part of a larger and even long-term strategy of putting the screws on Israel to help endear the U.S. to the Arab world,” the aide said.

A major part of Obama’s stated foreign policy goals involves enhancing the U.S. relationship with the Muslim and Arab world.

The last few weeks has seen what some are characterizing as a clash between the U.S. and Israel on a number of issues, most notably construction of Jewish communities in the strategic West Bank.

The Obama administration has voiced strong opposition to any construction in the territory, including the “natural growth” of West Bank settlements, meaning adding housing to current communities in the territory to account for growth in population.

WND reported last week Jerusalem officials are concerned the Obama administration intends to abrogate written pledges made by President Bush that Israel would be able to keep main West Bank settlement blocs in a future deal with the Palestinians. Obama already may have nixed a secret deal between Bush and the Israeli government that allowed for the continued natural growth.

Following a meeting at the end of May between Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a PA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told WND that Obama informed Abbas he would not Israel “get in the way” of normalizing U.S. relations with the Arab and greater Muslim world.

“We were told from this new administration they will not allow a Netanyahu government to hurt their efforts of rehabilitating U.S. relations with the Arab and Islamic world, which is a high priority of Obama,” the official said, speaking during a visit to Cairo.

Remarks similar to the Netanyahu’s aide’s comments to WND were published in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper yesterday, which quoted a Netanyahu confidente as saying the prime minister believes Obama wants a confrontation with Israel based on the U.S. president’s speech in Cairo last week.

Political sources close to Netanyahu told Haaretz that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama’s senior political consultant, David Axelrod, are behind the clash between the administration and Israel, believing such a conflict will help the U.S. build Arab alliances.

During Obama’s Muslim address last week, he ascribed much importance to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, placing it as his No. 2 issue. He affirmed “America’s strong bonds with Israel are … unbreakable” and he rejected Holocaust denial – a growing trend in the Muslim world – as “ignorant, and hateful.”

But alarming some here, Obama stated the Hamas terrorist group could play a role in “fulfilling Palestinian aspirations” if only they “put an end to violence, recognize past agreements and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Obama demanded Israelis must “acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.” Israel, however, offered the Palestinians a state on numerous occasions, including at Camp David in August 2000 and at Taba months later, only for Palestinian leaders to reject Israel’s offer and initiate violence without proposing counter offers. Just last year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians 94 percent of the West Bank and willingness to negotiate Jerusalem.

Obama pointed to Israeli West Bank settlements as specifically undermining “efforts to achieve peace,” while Palestinian and greater Arab rejection of Israel’s right to exist seems the main obstacle undermining peace.

Obama took the occasion to legitimize an “Arab Peace Initiative,” which calls on Israel to withdraw to truncated, difficult to defend borders and accept millions of foreign Arabs into its population (thus destroying Israel by population genocide) in exchange for “normalized” relations with the Arab world.

Obama trying to oust Netanyahu?

Some commentators have been speculating Obama may be trying to cause political trouble for Netanyahu, who is viewed as ultra-conservative, in favor of left-leaning politicians and parties here.

“It seems to me that Obama is trying to force the collapse of Netanyahu’s government,” wrote Jeffery Goldberg in comments in the Atlantic.

“I base this mostly on intuition. Of course, the Obama administration would never claim to be interfering in the internal politics of another country, but it seems obvious that Netanyahu’s narrow coalition won’t survive sustained American pressure on the settlements question,” Goldberg wrote.

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick commented on fears that Obama and his advisers “have made such an issue of settlements because they seek to overthrow Israel’s government and replace it with the more pliable Kadima party.”

Glick maintains the U.S. does not believe a government led by left-leaning parties will fair any differently than Netanyahu, since the Palestinians rejected offers of extreme territorial concessions from several liberal leaders here, including former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Olmert.

“The only reasonable explanation is that the administration is baiting Israel because it wishes to abandon the Jewish state as an ally in favor of warmer ties with the Arabs,” Glick concludes.

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