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Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is planning to travel to Morocco in early August to inaugurate the new Israeli diplomatic mission in Rabat, Israeli sources told me.

Why it matters: Lapid would be the first Israeli minister to visit Morocco since the nations re-established diplomatic relations last December as part of a three-way deal with the U.S., in which the Trump administration recognized Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara.

Driving the news: Lapid and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita agreed on the visit during a phone conversation Friday. Israeli sources told me it's expected to take place on August 10th or 11th, subject to the COVID situations in Israel and Morocco by then.

The State of Play: The Moroccans stopped short of fully normalizing diplomatic relations with Israel when the deal was signed in December, preferring instead to mutually open diplomatic liaison offices in lieu of embassies — and potentially retaining bargaining chips should the next administration consider rolling back the Western Sahara decision.

  • Two months ago I reported that Secretary of State Blinken told Bourita the Biden administration is not rolling back Trump’s decision. Biden’s top Middle East adviser, Brett McGurk, spoke with Bourita two weeks ago and reiterated this position.
  • Because of the Biden administration’s position, Morocco plans to conclude its normalization process with Israel by turning its diplomatic liaison office in Tel Aviv into an official embassy, sources familiar with the issue told me.
  • Last week during a meeting with the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, Lapid said Israel is planning to open an embassy in Morocco. Israeli officials told me Lapid didn’t misspeak, and that Morocco and Israel are negotiating the possibility of announcing the upgrade of the diplomatic offices to full embassies during Lapid’s visit.

What they're saying: Lapid’s office declined to comment.

Go deeper

Oct 21, 2021 - World

Israel to approve new construction in West Bank settlements

Bennett (L) and Biden discussed the settlements issue. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Israel will approve the construction of 4,400 new homes in the West Bank next week: 3,10o in the Jewish settlements and 1,300 in Palestinian villages.

Why it matters: This will be the first time Israel has approved new settlement building since President Biden assumed office, and it's the first time since 2007 that it approves a significant number of new homes for Palestinians in "Area C" of the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."