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Israel and U.S. in talks on first Biden-Bennett White House meeting in July

The U.S. and Israel are working to coordinate a White House visit for new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in July, three Israeli officials and two U.S. sources told me.

Why it matters: It's another sign that the Biden administration wants to help stabilize the new and fragile Israeli government.

  • Biden called Bennett two hours after he was sworn in, a move that reflects the U.S. president's desire to have a strong working relationship with Bennett, according to a source familiar with the White House's thinking.
  • The White House believes the new Israeli government, which consists of a broad spectrum of parties with different views that agreed to work together, could set an example for other countries that are going through political crises, the source told me.

Driving the news: The talks on the possible visit are being held between Bennett’s foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir and Biden’s top Middle East adviser Brett McGurk. Israeli Ambassador to Washington Gilad Erdan is also involved in the discussions.

  • The Israeli officials and the U.S. sources said both the White House and the prime minister’s office want the visit to take place as soon as possible. Israeli officials told me a possible timeframe is right after July 18, when Congress is back from recess.
  • The Israeli prime minister’s office confirmed that talks on a possible visit to the White House are taking place and stressed that a final date will be determined soon.

Biden will meet on Monday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who will be the first Middle East leader to visit the White House since January.

  • A source familiar with the preparations for the meeting said Biden is expected to explain to Rivlin why the U.S. thinks diplomacy is the best way to get Iran’s nuclear program "back in the box."
  • Biden is expected to tell Rivlin that the U.S. recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran, and to make clear that the U.S. is ready to use other measures to stop Iran's potential pursuit of a nuclear weapon if diplomacy fails, a source familiar with the preparations for the meeting told me.
  • On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Rome with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. This was their first meeting since the new Israeli government was formed.

What they're saying: Lapid hinted at the start of the meeting that former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harmed Israel's relations with the U.S., saying "mistakes were made in recent years and Israel’s bipartisan status in America was damaged. We will fix it together."

  • Lapid said Israel has reservations about a possible return by the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but stressed — in another jab at Netanyahu — that "the proper way to discuss them is through direct and professional dialogue and not through press conferences."
  • Blinken told Lapid: "We will have occasional differences. We have the same objectives. Sometimes we differ on the tactics. We are very clear and direct with each other when that’s the case.  And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be."

What to watch at the Olympics today: Gymnastics, golf, 3x3 basketball, swimming

5 events to watch today...

  • 🤸‍♀️ Men’s gymnastics: Team USA’s Sam Mikulak and Brody Malone compete in the individual all-around final. Coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. on Peacock (watch the replay at 8 p.m. ET on NBC)
  • 🏀 3x3 Basketball: The women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Russia starts at 8:55 a.m. ET on USA Network. Russia and Latvia will play in the men’s final at 9:25 a.m. ET.
  • 🏌️ Men’s golf: Round one tees off at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Golf Channel or stream on
  • 🏊 Swimming: Men’s 800m freestyle, 200m breaststroke and 100m freestyle finals and women’s 200m butterfly final. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. on NBC.
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National parks "drowning in tourists"

Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

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Facebook's next chapter: Build the "metaverse"

Facebook's "next chapter," Mark Zuckerberg says, is to be prime builder of "the metaverse" — an open, broadly distributed, 3D dimension online where, he says, we will all conduct much of our work and personal lives.

The big picture: Zuckerberg admits Facebook will only be one of many companies building this next-generation model of today's internet — but he also intends Facebook to lead the pack.

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CDC asks the vaccinated to help save the unvaccinated from themselves

The Biden administration is essentially asking vaccinated Americans to help save the unvaccinated from themselves.

The big picture: America's "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has gotten bad enough that vaccine mandates are starting to catch on, and masks are coming back — in some cases, even for the vaccinated.

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Least persuadable unvaccinated Americans are largely white and Republican

Data: Axios-Ipsos Poll; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The most hardcore opponents of coronavirus vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican than the unvaccinated Americans who are still persuadable, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: As the Delta variant triggers more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, mostly among the unvaccinated, the Biden administration and even some high-profile GOP political and media figures are trying to figure out how to nudge the country's vaccination rate higher.

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Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Female Olympians in Tokyo are rejecting the uniforms that have long defined their sports, highlighting a double standard that exists how women dress in competition vs. men.

Driving the news: During their qualifying round Sunday, Germany's women's gymnastics team wore full-length unitards, eschewing the conventional leg-barring leotards worn by most female gymnasts.

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Simone Biles won't defend Olympic title at gymnastics all-around final in Tokyo

U.S. gymnastics great Simone Biles won't defend her Olympic title in the upcoming all-around final as she continues to focus on her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday.

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Eric Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

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