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Biden in the Oval. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Israel is encouraging the White House to host an official ceremony marking the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Sudan, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Trump administration brokered four normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries, but the deal with Sudan is the only one that still needs to be anchored down.

  • While Israel has presented Sudan with a draft agreement for establishing diplomatic relations, the Sudanese want an endorsement from the Biden administration.

Driving the news: In recent weeks, President Biden’s senior Middle East advisers Brett McGurk and Barbara Leaf have spoken several times with their Israeli counterparts about ways to push forward the wider normalization process, Israeli officials told me.

  • One priority is determining which other Arab or Muslim countries could be next to normalize relations with Israel.
  • The Israelis pointed to Mauritania as a country that was close to normalizing relations in the last days of the Trump administration. Mauritania hoped to get economic incentives in return, but the clock ran out on Trump before a deal could be reached.

Yes, but: The Israelis told their White House counterparts that more work is still needed to stabilize the existing normalization deals, particularly the one with Sudan, Israeli officials tell me.

  • The Israelis believe that deal is nearly finished, but that a White House ceremony would be very helpful for the Sudanese government and provide an easy win for Biden.

Between the lines: The Biden administration wants to continue a process that began under Trump while securing achievements of its own through new deals.

  • The Biden administration is also not enthusiastic about Trump's name for the agreements: the “Abraham Accords.” The White House and State Department prefer to discuss “the normalization process."

What they're saying: A senior U.S. official told me it's premature to single out any particular countries, but confirmed there had been discussions with Israel about the opportunities that lie ahead on normalization. 

  • “Several of the newly established relationships between Israel and the four countries of the Abraham Accords are accelerating in their own right, and the U.S. will continue to encourage that dynamic," the U.S. official said.

Go deeper

12 mins ago - World

Scoop: Ukraine tells senators post-invasion sanctions are no help

Zelensky. Photo: Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. senators visiting Kyiv this week that waiting to impose sanctions on Russia until after an invasion is of no use to Ukraine, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: The Senate is currently working on a major sanctions package to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support for Ukraine, but divided over whether it would be more effective to sanction Russia now to signal resolve, or hold up the threat of future sanctions to demonstrate the high costs of an invasion.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

4 hours ago - World

Netanyahu plea talks enter crunch time

Netanyahu (right) meets with his lawyer ahead of a court hearing last February. Photo: Reuven Casto/Pool/AFP via Getty

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's opposition leader and former prime minister, is negotiating a possible plea deal over the corruption charges against him, but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit appears to be toughening his terms.

Why it matters: Mandelblit leaves office on Jan. 31. Negotiations could continue beyond that point, but the next attorney general may be less interested in quickly reaching a deal.