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Erdan (L) with Netanyahu. Photo: Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Jan. 20 is Inauguration Day for Joe Biden, but another person will also enter a new post in Washington: Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan.

Why it matters: The former minister from Netanyahu's Likud party will have to navigate Biden's Washington, which the Israeli government fears will be far less cozy than Trump’s.

The big picture: Erdan will replace Ron Dermer, Netanyahu’s closest confidant who served as ambassador for eight years and was one of the most influential and powerful diplomats in Washington.

  • To be effective, Erdan will have to make sure he's perceived the way Dermer was, as Bibi’s long arm in Washington. 
  • Erdan’s first challenges will be to try to reverse the trend of Israel becoming a partisan issue in Washington, and manage relations with Biden’s White House at a time when big policy differences seem unavoidable.
  • “I hope my friend Gilad Erdan is taking a crash course in spoken Democrat. It is a very special language — very different from the dialect we Israelis speak,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s former consul general in New York, tweeted.
  • Erdan hired former Washington Post Jerusalem correspondent Ruth Eglash as his spokesperson, which should help him in “speaking Democrat.”

The state of play: Erdan’s challenge will be even harder because he'll be juggling two jobs: He's also Israel's ambassador to the UN and lives with his family in New York.

  • After assuming office, Erdan is likely to spend three days a week in Washington. The slowdown of UN activity due to COVID-19 should make it easier for Erdan to manage both jobs.
  • Worth noting: The last Israeli diplomat to hold both posts was the legendary Abba Eban in the 1950s.

Erdan is spending this week in meetings with Dermer in Washington to prepare for the job, an Israeli official said.

  • He has met with several senior Democrats in New York, and he'll likely make his first priority forging ties with Democrats.
  • Erdan posted a photo with Biden on Facebook. It was from several years ago when they met on the train to Washington. Biden was then the vice president and Erdan was a minister in the Israeli government.
  • “We had a great conversation. Things changed a bit since then, but I will do the utmost to bring the U.S.-Israeli relations to a new height," Erdan wrote.

What to watch: Although he is right wing in most of his positions, Erdan hopes his work on climate change as environment minister will help him connect with Democrats, an Israeli official told me.

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - World

Scoop: Sudan wants to seal Israel normalization deal at White House

Burhan. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty

Three months after Sudan agreed to normalize relations with Israel, it still hasn't signed an agreement to formally do so. Israeli officials tell me one reason has now emerged: Sudan wants to sign the deal at the White House.

Driving the news: Israel sent Sudan a draft agreement for establishing diplomatic relations several weeks ago, but the Sudanese didn’t reply, the officials say. On Tuesday, Israeli Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen raised that issue in Khartoum during the first-ever visit of an Israeli minister to Sudan.

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Biden administration lays out its policies on Israel-Palestine at the UN

Biden with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2010. Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

The Biden administration today laid out its policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stressed its intention to renew ties with the Palestinian Authority.

Why it matters: The Trump administration dramatically changed U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Biden's policies, laid out for the first time today, will shift the U.S. back to the more traditional positions held by previous Democratic and Republican administrations.

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.