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Blinken's Israel visit comes during heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions


Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting Jerusalem this week.


The original plan was to meet with leaders of Israel's new right-wing government. Blinken now has more to discuss because of days of recent violence. Last week, Israel carried out its deadliest raid in the West Bank in years. Israeli forces killed several militants and a 61-year-old woman. Then on Friday, a Palestinian gunman killed at least seven people outside a Jerusalem synagogue.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us now from Tel Aviv. Daniel, first of all, why is Antony Blinken even there?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, he was in Cairo meeting leaders there. The core of his visit, though, is meeting the new prime minister in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to coordinate how the U.S. will work with Israel's new right-wing government. And there's a lot to discuss. First, what to do about Iran with the nuclear talks stalled. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are reporting that Israel bombed a compound in Iran this weekend. And today the U.S. is warning about attacks on synagogues and other places in Istanbul. So that's one thing. Netanyahu also wants the U.S. to help broker a diplomatic agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But, you know, the U.S. has its own concerns. It's concerned about the far-right makeup of Israel's new government, its plans to legalize more settlements in the occupied West Bank. But overshadowing everything is the wave of violence here these last few days.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, so taking account everything you just told us, what's the mood like there?

ESTRIN: A, I met an Israeli family in shock. They were sitting on the floor, sitting shiva, the Jewish mourning tradition. There were a lot of visitors when I was there. And I spoke with Tal Barashi (ph). Her brother was in that apartment on the Sabbath, heard gunshots, ran out to help with his wife, and they were both shot and killed. And his sister tells me she can't believe it. Israelis and Palestinians live intertwined in Jerusalem. Let's listen.

TAL BARASHI: We are all the same. We have two legs, two hands, two eyes, one heart. We are together. Why we don't live together like a family? Why I need to sit here and cry about my brother?

ESTRIN: I asked her how she wants the Israeli government to respond.

BARASHI: We suffer. They should suffer.

ESTRIN: We suffer. They should suffer. You know, Israel has sealed the home of the Palestinian attacker, promises to demolish the home. She says it's not enough. She wants the attacker's family to be exiled. So right now, we are hearing a lot of pressure on Israel's new far-right leaders to get tougher on Palestinians. The government is pursuing a lot of punitive actions. Israeli settlers have carried out reprisal attacks against Palestinians. We have also interviewed Palestinians, including a friend of a 13-year-old who shot and wounded two Israelis this weekend in a different shooting who called his friend a hero after all the violence that Palestinians have experienced in recent days. Israeli troops killed one more man just today in the West Bank.

MARTÍNEZ: So back to Secretary of State Blinken. What can he possibly do here?

ESTRIN: He's going to try to urge Palestinian leaders to restart their security cooperation with Israel. He's going to try to put some limits on Israel's right-wing government. But Israelis and Palestinians are hardened right now. Their leaders are, too. It's a very inopportune moment for Blinken to calm things down.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thanks.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.