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Mahmoud Abbas (L) with Vladimir Putin in 2018. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

Officials from the U.S., Russia, EU and UN will hold a video-conference today to discuss the possibility of an international meeting to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Western diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: The meeting comes amid escalating tensions, with Israel threatening to move forward with annexations in the West Bank and Palestinian leaders announcing the suspension of all agreements with Israel and the U.S., including on security coordination.

The backstory: Russia has been working, with the support of the UN and the EU, to facilitate an international meeting that would include several countries in addition to the U.S. and the Palestinians.

  • Western diplomats think such a meeting could provide a path to a new political process that slows or stops Israel's moves toward annexation.
  • Contacts between the U.S. and the Palestinians have been frozen for 2.5 years, since Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Israel's new government, meanwhile, wants to take up the annexation issue within months.

The latest: Palestinian newspaper “Al-Ayyam” reports that UN Secretary General António Guterres called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday evening to discuss the possibility of a ministerial-level meeting, to be held under UN auspices.

  • Guterres said the meeting would include ministers from the U.S., Russia, EU, UN and several Arab states, and asked if the Palestinians would be willing to attend.
  • Abbas said the Palestinians would not agree to such a meeting if it was held on the basis of President Trump's peace plan, which the Palestinians emphatically reject.
  • That will likely be a sticking point with the White House, which wants any meeting to take place around Trump's plan.

Today's conference call will focus on the possibility of putting the meeting together. The U.S. will be represented on the call by White House special envoy Avi Berkowitz.

Go deeper: Israeli ambassador lobbies for annexation, fearing Biden victory

Go deeper

Aug 25, 2020 - World

Kushner to take first Israel-UAE flight, launch normalization talks

Kushner (center) at the announcement of the normalization deal. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Jared Kushner will travel next Monday on the first direct commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi following a U.S.-brokered normalization agreement, the White House and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office announced.

Why it matters: Kushner’s trip will facilitate the beginning of direct talks on various aspects of the Israel-UAE normalization process amid tensions over a pending sale of F-35 jets from the U.S. to the UAE.

6 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

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