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A UN peacekeeping boat off of Naqoura. Photo: Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP via Getty

Israel and Lebanon will resume U.S.-mediated talks on their maritime borders next Tuesday after a pause of more than four month, Israeli officials tell me

Why it matters: The talks are an attempt to resolve a dispute over natural gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The revenues at stake could reach the tens of billions of dollars.

The backstory: There have been major natural gas discoveries off the coasts of both countries over the last decade, and the border dispute has halted gas exploration in an area that has attracted the interest of U.S. energy companies.

  • The U.S.-brokered talks that began last October were the first direct political negotiations between Israeli and Lebanese officials in 30 years, but they stalled in December after four meetings.

Driving the news: A senior Israeli official told me the meeting on Tuesday would take place at the UN base in Naqoura, near the Israel-Lebanon border. U.S. mediator John Desrocher will attend.

Behind the scenes: In recent weeks, the Lebanese press reported that the government in Beirut — under pressure from Hezbollah — considered declaring a new border line with the UN, which is further to the south.

  • In retaliation, Israel announced it would also declare a new border line further to the north. Those tit-for-tat moves would have broadened the border dispute.
  • Two weeks ago, undersecretary of state for political affairs David Hale visited Beirut and raised the issue with officials including Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Before and after his trip, Hale also spoke with Israeli officials.
  • After the visit, Hale and Desrocher convinced both parties to abandon their new border claims and return to the negotiations table, an Israeli official tells me.

What they're saying: ‘The Lebanese climbed down from their tree and there are reasonable conditions for renewed talks. We want to reach a compromise and put this issue behind us," an Israeli official told me.

  • The State Department declined to comment.

Go deeper

Aug 6, 2021 - World

Israeli prime minister appoints new ambassador to Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday nominated Mike Herzog as Israel's next ambassador to Washington. Herzog, who is one of Israel’s most experienced and respected strategic thinkers, is the brother of Israel’s President Issac Herzog.

Why it matters: Herzog will be a key player in building the relationship between the new Israeli government and the Biden administration — navigating the differences on thorny issues like the Iran nuclear deal and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Federal judge says Florida ban on "sanctuary cities" racially motivated

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down parts of a Florida law aimed at banning local governments from establishing "sanctuary city" policies, arguing in part that the law is racially motivated and that it has the support of hate groups.

Why it matters: In a 110-page ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom said the law — signed and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — violates the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it was adopted with discriminatory motives.

Biden steps into the breach

Sen. Joe Manchin heads to a meeting with President Biden today. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

President Biden ramped up the pressure on his fellow Democrats Wednesday, calling a series of lawmakers to the White House in the hope of ending infighting and getting them in line.

Why it matters: Divisions within the party are threatening to derail Biden's top priorities. After several weeks of letting negotiations play out, the president is finally asserting his power to ensure his own party doesn't block his agenda.