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Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers at a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on Monday that he has been discussing with the Trump administration "for some time now" the possibility of annexing the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

Why it matters: This statement by Netanyahu is nothing short of dramatic. This is the first time Netanyahu has sounded support for annexation of the settlements in more than 10 years as prime minister. Israel annexed occupied East Jerusalem in 1980 and then annexed the occupied Golan Heights in 1981. Israel has refrained from annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, fearing international reaction, mainly from the U.S.

U.S. official tells me: The U.S. hasn’t received or agreed to any proposals from Israel about annexation of the settlements in the West Bank

What we're hearing: According to a Netanyahu aide who attended the meeting, Netanyahu said he wants maximum coordination with the Trump administration on such a move because "the good contacts with the White House are a strategic asset to Israel and to the settlements". 

Netanyahu added that because such a step would be historic he wants to promote such a move as a government initiative and not as part of a private initiative by members of Knesset who promote a bill on this issue.  

Why now?: Netanyahu is under political pressure by members of his own party and by other parties in his coalition to start annexing parts of the West Bank – mainly the Jewish settlements. Netanyahu's Likud party central committee has passed a resolution calling the government to annex the settlements. Netanyahu is delaying a bill that annexes the settlements and this statement today is a means to save face politically.

Netanyahu is dealing with two police investigations against him on alleged corruption and bribe. The police is about to publish next week its recommendations to the attorney general regarding Netanyahu's cases. A statement by Netanyahu at this timing supporting annexation of the settlements is a means to rally his right wing base as he braces for the fallout from the police recommendations.

Go deeper: Netanyahu urged delay on settlement annexation bill until after Trump peace plan

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include comment from a U.S. official.

Go deeper

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

1 hour ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

2 hours ago - World

Two years of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two years ago Wednesday, the first case of a mysterious new respiratory disease was discovered in Wuhan, China. Now, the Omicron variant has deepened concerns about just how much longer the coronavirus pandemic will last.

The big picture: More than 5 million people have died since that first case. Most people on earth have lived through some form of lockdown. 54% of the global population has had at least one vaccination, though the shots have been distributed unevenly.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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