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Israeli flags flying near an excavation site by the Israeli army near the concrete barrier along the border with Lebanon. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

The first round of U.S.-mediated talks between Israel and Lebanon over the two countries' long-standing maritime border dispute is expected in July, a senior Israeli official told me. 

Why it matters: Israeli-Lebanese talks would be a dramatic diplomatic development and a significant step forward in a long-standing conflict that has stalled natural gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. Solving the crisis could unlock potential natural gas reserves for both countries.

Behind the scenes: Earlier this week, U.S. envoy David Satterfield held talks with officials in Beirut and Jerusalem in an effort to close the final gaps and set a date for the first round of negotiations. Israeli officials told me Satterfield made substantial progress in his talks and managed to find solutions for many technical issues that had held up the launch of the negotiations. 

  • The Israeli official said the Lebanese wanted to initiate the talks without a firm timetable for getting a deal. Israel, on the other hand, wanted to set a six-month deadline.
  • As a compromise, the talks will have no firm deadline, but the statement which the U.S. will release to announce the talks will say that the aspiration is to get a deal in six months, the Israeli official to me.

What's next: Satterfield is expected to return to Beirut on Monday or Tuesday to get the final green light from the Lebanese government. He will then return to Jerusalem for talks with the Israelis. The Israeli official told me he thinks the last gaps will be closed this week and a first round of U.S.-mediated Israeli Lebanese talks will be set for July.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

4 hours ago - World

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.