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Egyptian President Sisi (L) with French President Macron. Egypt and France are both members of the "Munich Group." Photo: Francois Mori/AFP via Getty

A group of Arab and European countries nicknamed “The Munich Group” is lobbying Israeli and Palestinian leaders to commit to a package of confidence-building measures, Israeli and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: The initiative from France, Germany, Egypt and Jordan is the only active effort to create some movement in the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

  • They're hoping to improve the atmosphere between the Israelis and Palestinians as the Biden administration reviews its policy on the issue.
  • But European diplomats say both sides are hesitant to take any steps without the participation of the Biden administration.

Flashback: The initiative began last February when the four countries' foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in an attempt to start a dialogue with the Palestinians after the Trump peace plan was presented.

  • The countries later convened to coordinate a response to Israel's annexation plan, which was taken off the table last fall.
  • When the group met in Cairo a month ago, they wanted the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers to join them, but COVID-19 restrictions and political sensitivities in Israel made that impossible.

Driving the news: Last week, the ambassadors of the four countries met with the director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Alon Ushpiz, and presented him with possible steps Israel could take.

  • They included providing more vaccines to Palestinian medical teams, unfreezing the bank accounts of Palestinian prisoners and transferring the dead bodies of suspected Palestinian terrorists, which are withheld by Israeli security forces.
  • The most substantial request was a freeze on all new settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That's always a politically charged issue, but particularly so during an Israeli election campaign.

A similar meeting was held in Ramallah between diplomats from the four countries and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki.

  • They presented him with steps the Palestinians could take, such as enhancing coordination with Israel on COVID-19, reconvening a joint civilian committee that deals with issues in the West Bank and Gaza, and reforming the system of payments the Palestinian Authority makes to prisoners in Israeli prisons, European diplomats say.

What's next: The foreign ministers of the four countries proposed that the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers meet them separately in Paris in early March to discuss the proposals.

  • The Israelis rejected most of the proposed steps out of hand. Ushpiz told the ambassadors he was surprised that a forum aimed at reassuring the Palestinians turned into a forum to demand steps from Israel.
  • “When I see this evolution, I have to rethink if we are even interested in engaging with this initiative," Ushpiz told the ambassadors, according to European diplomats.
  • He also stressed that the initiative can’t exclude the Biden administration. The ambassadors replied that the initiative is intended to help the new U.S. administration.
  • According to the European diplomats, al-Malki said he was prepared to attend the meeting in Paris and consider the proposal, while stressing the need to coordinate the initiative with the Biden administration.

Go deeper: Potential war crimes probe pulls Biden into Israel-Palestine conflict

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.