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Trump and Netanyahu at the White House. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer plans to bring annexations in the West Bank before his Cabinet for a vote in the coming days, after being urged to slow down by the White House.

Why it matters: Netanyahu seemed to receive the green light he was looking for yesterday to go ahead with annexations of all Israeli settlements and much of the Jordan Valley — and he planned to act quickly. Now, he's taking a step back.

The backstory: Some in the White House were unhappy with Netanyahu's plan to quickly annex areas envisioned as part of Israel in the proposal President Trump unveiled yesterday.

  • U.S. officials tell me they had previously requested that Netanyahu not take such action right away.
  • "The president could not have been any clearer. This is a process and it will take time," one senior U.S. official says.
  • Netanyahu's aides, meanwhile, say they understood from their talks with the White House that they had the go-ahead.

Part of the confusion was due to contradictory messages from senior U.S. officials.

  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman briefed reporters on Tuesday that Israel could begin annexations as soon as they had domestic approval.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a similar message in an interview with me, saying Israel could move forward so long as its steps were consistent with Trump's plan.

On Wednesday, the message changed.

  • U.S. officials including Friedman said in press briefings and in private talks with Netanyahu's aides that a joint U.S.-Israeli committee needs to discuss the details of any annexation plans before they proceed.
  • Friedman said he didn't know how long that process would take.

Where things stand: Netanyahu's aides said the Cabinet would not be voting on annexation next week. One stressed that this was "a complex process that needs a lot of work on maps."

  • Netanyahu's spokesperson even deleted a tweet about the planned Cabinet vote.

The big picture: Israeli annexations in the West Bank could fundamentally change the status quo between the Israelis and Palestinians, imperil Israel's peace treaty with Jordan and spark an uprising among Palestinians.

  • They could also boost Netanyahu's chances in a March 2 election and become a central part of his legacy.

Go deeper: Netanyahu surrenders immunity, faces corruption trial

Go deeper

30 mins ago - World

COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming

Recreated from Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

South Africa alerted the world to the Omicron variant. Now data out of South Africa may serve as a warning of what we're facing.

Driving the news: South Africa recorded 11,535 new cases Thursday with 22.4% of tests coming back positive — up from an average of about 300 new cases, with a 2% test positivity rate 10 days earlier. The country's top public health officials expect that exponential rise to continue as Omicron rapidly becomes the dominant variant.

BuzzFeed to go public, after shareholders approve SPAC deal

Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is set to become publicly traded on Monday, after shareholders of a SPAC called 890 Fifth Avenue Partners voted to approve a previously-announced merger.

Yes, but: The vast majority of the money the SPAC raised in January was yanked, a signal that investors aren't very optimistic about BuzzFeed's future prospects.

Omicron cases confirmed in 4 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Five cases of the newly-discovered Omicron variant were detected in New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday, making New York the fourth state with confirmed cases.

The latest: In addition to New York, the variant has been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.