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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Imagess

CIA director Bill Burns will visit Israel on Tuesday for the first time since assuming office for talks that are expected to focus on Iran, Israeli officials tell me. He's also expected to meet Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah.

Why it matters: Burns will arrive in Jerusalem with tensions running hot between Israel and Iran over an alleged Iranian attack on an Israeli-linked oil tanker and amid escalation between Israel and Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

  • He'll meet David Barnea, director of the Mossad intelligence agency, and he's expected to meet Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other senior defense and intelligence officials.
  • Israeli officials say the talks will focus on Iran's nuclear program and regional activity, and that Israel hopes to hear more about U.S. policy toward the new Iranian government and a possible return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Burns is also expected to visit Ramallah to meet Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj.

  • He's also expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli officials say.
  • A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment on Burns’ schedule.

The big picture: Apart from the Five Eyes intelligence allies — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and U.S. — Mossad is the foreign intelligence service with the closest ties to the CIA. During the Trump presidency, the CIA and Mossad worked jointly on many operations against Iran.

  • The CIA also has very close cooperation with the Palestinian intelligence service on counterterrorism, which the agency maintained even after all other communications between the Trump and Abbas governments broke down.

Flashback: Burns developed close relationships with many Israeli and Palestinian officials — including the new Israeli ambassador to Washington Mike Herzog — during his long State Department career.

  • In 2013, Burns and national security adviser Jake Sullivan led the backchannel talks with Iran that preceded the nuclear deal, flying secretly to Oman to meet their Iranian counterparts without notifying Israel or other allies.
  • News of the talks sparked a deep crisis between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations.

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Biden administration leans into Abraham Accords

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) meets with Vice President Kamala Harris (L). Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty

The trilateral meeting on Wednesday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates epitomized the Biden administration's belated embrace of the Abraham Accords.

Why it matters: The normalization deals struck between Israel and four Arab countries were Donald Trump's landmark foreign policy achievement, and while the Biden administration has long said it wants to push them forward, it has only recently started taking steps in that direction.

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Netanyahu assured Putin "I will be back soon" after losing election

Netanyahu (L) with Putin in 2019. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP via Getty

Days after being ousted as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu passed a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin promising a quick comeback, a source close to Netanyahu and a European diplomat told me.

Why it matters: Netanyahu and Putin had a close relationship that grew even closer after Russia began its military involvement in Syria in 2015. Netanyahu flaunted that relationship during election campaigns — meeting with Putin days before the 2019 vote and even featuring a picture of the two together on a campaign billboard to emphasize his stature as a statesman.

Updated 49 mins ago - World

Reports: Brazil leader to be accused of crimes against humanity over COVID

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: Andressa Anholete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate panel will recommend President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with "crimes against humanity," alleging his COVID-19 pandemic response led to hundreds of thousands of deaths, per the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The latest: The lawmakers initially said Bolsonaro should be charged with mass homicide and genocide, but lawmakers updated the report to replace these with the new charge, its lead author, Sen. Renan Calheiros, told the NYT.

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