By Aaron Klein
The Obama administration is set to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ease the blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip during the premier's visit to Washington next week, according to Israeli diplomatic sources.
Separately, a senior Palestinian Authority negotiator said the U.S. has placed the most pressure on Israel to ease the Gaza blockade. The negotiator said the Obama administration has taken a harder line against Israel on the issue than even the European Union or Arab states.
"This attitude is emboldening Hamas," said the PA negotiator.
The PA has been at odds with Hamas since the Islamist group seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
An Egyptian security official, meanwhile, said the Obama administration pressured his country to open the Egypt-Gaza border last month without first implementing a security agreement previously brokered by the Bush administration that calls for PA guards to be stationed alongside Hamas on the Gaza side of the border.
The Egyptian security official said that in discussions with the Obama administration, U.S. officials have been claiming they want to scale back the blockade of Gaza to generate popular opposition to Hamas.
The official said that according to this line of thinking, the White House said it believes Hamas uses the blockade as an excuse to rule from a position of a government under siege. The official said the White House surmises that once the blockage of Gaza is lifted and Hamas needs to take more responsibility in Gaza, the territory's population will revolt against Hamas.
The official, however, called the White House position "naive."
"The [Obama] administration is playing with fire," said the Egyptian official.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet with Obama next Thursday. A trip to Washington was canceled last month amid the fallout of Israel's raid on a violent activist flotilla headed to Gaza to break Israel's naval blockade of the territory.
According to Israeli diplomatic sources, the Obama administration has been pressing hard on Israel to scale back its land blockade, demanding that dual-use materials such as metal and cement be allowed into Gaza.
Israel had blocked those materials, fearing they could be used to aid Hamas' terrorist infrastructure. In the past few days, metal and cement have been allowed into Gaza.
Israel maintains a naval blockade on Gaza, fearing if it allows ships to reach the territory, Hamas will be able to transport weaponry for use against Israelis.
Israel and the international community numerous times have stopped ships loaded with weapons destined for Gaza.
Despite claims made by activists, Israel does not block humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel allows a large number of trucks daily to enter Gaza with food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies. Israel transfers monthly into Gaza tens of millions of dollars worth of Israeli shekels to ensure the flow of cash in the territory.
Palin: Obama sold out Netanyahu - Jerusalem Post
Saudi king seeks Obama action on Mideast peace - Today's Zaman
Iranian ships could join wave of flotillas to Gaza, says Hamas chief - The Independent
Turkey Barring Israeli Military Flights From Its Airspace - New York Times
The Manchurian President: Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists - Aaron Klein (Book)