Show an ad over header. AMP

Israel's plan to influence Biden on Iran

Israel is drafting a strategy for engaging with the incoming Biden administration on Iran, two Israeli officials tell me.

What they're saying: “We don’t want to be left out again," Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset foreign relations committee in a classified hearing last week. He said Israel had to avoid the mistakes that left it isolated as the Obama administration negotiated the 2015 Iran deal.

  • Ashkenazi said Israel's hardline approach made it almost irrelevant to the process and left it without any influence on the deal's contents, two officials who attended the hearing told me.
  • Where things stand: Biden's plan is to return to the deal if Iran returns to compliance and then attempt to negotiate a broader, longer-lasting agreement.

Flashback: During the negotiations between 2013–2015, Israel hardly attempted to reach any understandings with the White House about the deal and instead campaigned against it.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went behind Barack Obama's back to then-House Speaker John Boehner to organize a speech in Congress opposing the deal.

What's happening: The Israeli Foreign Ministry has formed a special team, led by Ashkenazi, to focus on how Israel can remain in the loop and influence any negotiations the Biden administration might have with Iran, Israeli officials say.

  • Ashkenazi told the hearing that the team's goal is to make sure any future nuclear deal with Iran contains elements that are important for Israel.
  • In his view, that means convincing Biden to link the nuclear issue to Iran's missile program and regional behavior.

Behind the scenes: According to the officials who attended the classified hearing, Ashkenazi said the Foreign Ministry thinks the Biden administration will follow through on Biden's plan to push for a renewed nuclear deal.

  • But he added that he believes Biden’s team is aware that the 2015 deal had weaknesses and will try to address them.
  • Ashkenazi said the Foreign Ministry has already made preliminary contacts with members of the Biden transition team to establish channels of communication.

Yes, but: The current Israeli government is dysfunctional and fractured. Ashkenazi is considered one of Netanyahu’s main political opponents, and they have significant policy differences, including on Iran.

  • It's unclear if Netanyahu shares Ashkenazi’s views on how to engage with the Biden administration.
  • Netanyahu’s closest confidant, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, said Monday that it would be a mistake for Biden to go back to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Worth noting: Ashkenazi said in the hearing that the Iranians were preparing to renew talks with whoever won the U.S. elections, and he added: “We don’t know with which U.S. administration the deal would have been more problematic for us."

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

Keep reading... Show less

Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

Keep reading... Show less

President of Soros foundation leaves amid speculation of potential Biden role

Patrick Gaspard, who served as ambassador to South Africa under President Barack Obama, is stepping down as president of George Soros' Open Society Foundations, fueling speculation that he'll join the Biden administration, potentially as Labor secretary.

What to know: Before his stint as ambassador, Gaspard was Obama's political director in the White House, drawing upon his experience in the labor movement to advance Obama's legislative agenda on health care and financial services reform.

Keep reading... Show less

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.

Keep reading... Show less

Clean trucks are paving the road to the electric vehicle era

The electric vehicle revolution is underway, led by the un-sexiest of plug-in models: the commercial truck.

Why it matters: Growing demand for cleaner trucks means 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles — just not the kind you might have expected.

Keep reading... Show less

Over 13 million people are receiving pandemic unemployment assistance expiring on Dec. 26

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is falling but remains remarkably high three weeks before pandemic assistance programs are set to expire. More than 1 million people a week are still filing for initial jobless claims, including nearly 300,000 applying for pandemic assistance.

By the numbers: As of Nov. 14, 20.2 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits of some kind, including more than 13.4 million on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs that were created as part of the CARES Act and end on Dec. 26.

Keep reading... Show less

The top candidates Biden is considering for key energy and climate roles

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged President-elect Joe Biden to nominate Mary Nichols, chair of California's air pollution regulator, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The reported push by Schumer could boost Nichol's chances of leading an agency that will play a pivotal role in Biden's vow to enact aggressive new climate policies — especially because the plan is likely to rest heavily on executive actions.

Keep reading... Show less

U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as rate of recovery slows

Axios Visuals. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 6.9%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market continues to recover even as coronavirus cases surge— though it's still millions of jobs short of the pre-pandemic level. The problem is that the rate of recovery is slowing significantly.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories