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Gantz. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement yesterday on the legality of Israeli settlements, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman notified Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political rival, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, effectively tied with Netanyahu in Israel's election two months ago. Gantz was asked to form a government after Netanyahu failed to do so, but his mandate expires on Wednesday. There was speculation that the U.S. announcement was timed to help Netanyahu politically.

Gantz did not object to the content or timing of the U.S. announcement, according to the officials.

  • One U.S. official said that if Gantz raised reservations on the grounds that he was close to forming a government, the U.S. would probably have delayed the move.
  • Gantz publicly welcomed Pompeo's announcement, tweeting: "I applaud the U.S. government for its important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security of the Middle East."
  • U.S. officials tell me the announcement was not intended to help either party and the heads-up to Gantz was intended to ensure that the planned U.S. announcement did not interfere in domestic Israeli politics and harm Gantz's efforts to form a government. "There is never good timing because things happen in Israel all the time," they said.
  • Pompeo said yesterday that the announcement followed a lengthy legal process.

Go deeper:

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Last week's revelation of a new cyberattack on thousands of small businesses and organizations, on top of last year's SolarWinds hack, shows we've entered a new era of mass-scale cyber war.

Why it matters: In a world that's dependent on interlocking digital systems, there's no escaping today's cyber conflicts. We're all potential victims even if we're not participants.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wealthy private citizens are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who can go to space — and some of them want to bring the average person along for the ride.

Why it matters: Space is being opened up to people who wouldn't have had the prospect of flying there even five years ago, but these types of missions have far-reaching implications for who determines who gets to make use of space and for what.

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Axios-Ipsos poll: America looks for the exits after a year of COVID

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A year after the coronavirus abruptly shut down much of the country, Americans are watching for a clear signal of when the pandemic will be over — and most won't be ready to ditch the masks and social distancing until they get it, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The poll found that more Americans are expecting the outbreak to be over sooner rather than later, as vaccinations ramp up throughout the country — but that very few are ready to end the precautions that have upended their lives.

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