Defense Secretary Hagel Next to Visit Israel

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- President Obama is pressing ahead with the Middle East diplomatic track since his trip to Israel, the Palestinian Authority areas and Jordan last month.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will visit Israel in two weeks, Israel's Army Radio reported Tuesday morning.

Some say his visit, coming on the heels of Secretary of State John Kerry's current trip to Israel, is evidence of Obama's intention to ramp up the pressure on Israel to meet Palestinian demands so negotiations can resume.

Others say Iran and Syria will top the agenda.

Kerry met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul last Sunday before arriving in Israel to meet with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.

While there, Kerry relayed Obama's invitation to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to participate in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News reported.

According to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Netanyahu accepted Obama's suggestion to bring Turkey into the peace process, ostensibly to help boost Israeli-Turkish relations, which have soured since Erdogan became prime minister.

Since assuming office in 2003, he's been a stalwart supporter of Hamas and other Islamic groups, including the IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), the Turkish "humanitarian relief fund" that helped recruit pro-Palestinian activists to sail aboard the blockade-busting flagship, Mavi Mamara. Established in 1992, IHH is known among counter-terrorism experts as a radical Islamic group.

The highly publicized incident aboard the Turkish-owned Mavi Mamara in May 2010 was intended to provoke a confrontation between pro-Palestinian Turkish activists and Israeli naval forces. Erdogan himself may have seen it as an opportunity to harm Israel's reputation abroad.

For nearly two years, Israel refused his demands for an apology and compensation to the families of the activists who were killed during a confrontation Israel hoped to avoid. Israeli sailors intended to use paintball guns, if necessary, to subdue aggressive passengers. They were not expecting to be attacked with knives, clubs, chains and stun grenades.

Only when it became evident the passengers were out for blood did the soldiers resort to using live ammunition, killing nine attackers in the ensuing fray.

Israel tried through backdoor diplomacy to repair the relationship it enjoyed with pre-Erdogan Turkey. But despite shared interests militarily and economically through the tourism sector and other import/export treaties, the relationship disintegrated under his leadership.

Last month, Netanyahu shocked a lot of Israelis when he apologized for "operational errors" that may have led to the activists' deaths. Many here believe Obama pressured Netanyahu to meet Erdogan's demand for an apology.

In related news, the latest media reports suggest the Obama administration is warming to the idea of reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority's Fatah faction and Hamas. Hamas is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations and openly calls for an Islamic Palestine to replace Israel.

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From her perch high atop the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, Tzippe Barrow helps provide a bird’s eye view of events unfolding in her country.

She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) several years ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.