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Then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in January. Photo. Emil Salman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The boss of Israel's spy agency has been in private talks with former Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin about joining his investment fund that will work with Gulf countries, two sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Yossi Cohen, director of the Mossad, is retiring next week. But the discussions between him and Mnuchin occurred while he was still serving in his government role, which also included handling Israel's ties with Gulf countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, these sources said.

  • Cohen and a representative for Mnuchin declined to comment when Axios approached them about these discussions. A source who spoke to Cohen said no final decision has been made about him joining Mnuchin's fund.

State of play: Mnuchin's fund is expected to raise money from sovereign wealth funds in the Persian Gulf region. Funds for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are evaluating cooperation with Mnuchin, according to sources familiar with their deliberations.

  • Former U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman also has discussed joining Mnuchin's fund. Friedman worked with Cohen during the Trump presidency on many issues, including Israel's relations with Gulf countries.
  • They resulted in a series of direct normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries known collectively as the "Abraham Accords."

The big picture: Both Mnuchin and Cohen worked closely with Qatar, the UAE and other Gulf states as part of their government jobs and traveled to the region several times.

  • The Mossad has been working closely with Qatar in recent years on the issue of Gaza. This work continued during the recent crisis, with the Israeli spy agency passing messages to Hamas via Qatar.
  • Israel has approved and sometimes requested Qatari transfers of hundreds of millions of dollars to Hamas-controlled Gaza. This has given Qatar sizable diplomatic influence.

Go deeper

Over 500 ex-staffers urge Biden to "hold Israel accountable for its actions"

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 500 former Biden campaign and Democratic Party staffers signed an open letter released Monday urging President Biden to do more to protect Palestinians and "hold Israel accountable for its actions."

Why it matters: Progressives have ramped up pressure on Biden in recent weeks to confront Israel on what they've described as human rights abuses in Gaza, where Israel's government carried out a military offensive in response to rocket attacks by Hamas.

50 mins ago - World

Putin denies Russia is behind cyberattacks ahead of Biden summit

In an exclusive interview with NBC's "Today," Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia is waging cyber warfare against the United States and refused to guarantee opposition leader Alexei Navalny — whose name he would not say — will leave prison alive.

Why it matters: Cyberattacks by Russian intelligence and Russian-speaking criminal groups, as well as the Kremlin's attempted assassination and jailing of Navalny, are among the topics President Biden is expected to raise at his Geneva summit with Putin on Wednesday.

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Novavax says COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in Phase 3 trial

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Novavax, a Maryland biotechnology company, announced Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine was 90.4% effective in its Phase 3 trial, including against coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The study of 29,960 participants in the U.S. and Mexico found the shot was safe and highly effective, paving the way for the FDA to clear a 4th vaccine for emergency use by the end of the year.