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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a briefing on coronavirus developments in Israel at his office in Jerusalem, on Sept. 13. Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was balancing his greatest achievement against his greatest failure as he arrived in Washington on Monday.

Why it matters: Netanyahu on Tuesday will be among those at the White House to sign historic and strategic agreements normalizing relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, while back home, Israelis grapple with the economic and health crisis brought by a second lockdown to contain the coronavirus. The virus has made many Israelis indifferent to the big event at the White House.

Demonstrators in Jerusalem protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his failure to combat the COVID-19 pandemic on Sept. 12. Photo: Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The big picture: Netanyahu’s corruption trial has alienated many Israelis and led to demonstrations at the airport several hours before his departure.

  • The criticism increased with reports that Netanyahu had planned to fly to Washington with his wife and kids on a private jet, Israel's three big television channels announced they would not cover the trip, and he was forced to give up the private plane.
  • Some of Netanyahu’s confidants are concerned that television stations will air a split-screen tomorrow, with Netanyahu walking the red carpet in Washington on one side and images of Israelis preparing for the general lockdown on the other.

What they're saying: In a press conference before flying to Washington, Netanyahu explained the agreements will lead to huge investments in Israel, improve the economy and create jobs. He's repeated that message several times.

Driving the news: Two hours after Netanyahu arrived in Washington his office released a photo of him on the phone. His office said he was speaking with the Israeli minister of health and the coronavirus czar, getting updates on the latest infection numbers.

  • In a video subsequently released, he acknowledged he “knows people are going through difficult times” and said he is dealing with the economic situation while he's in Washington.

Details: Netanyahu was the only politician on the plane that flew the Israeli delegation to the historic ceremony in Washington.

  • He invited neither his main coalition partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, nor Foreign Minister Gabbi Ashkenazito to join him.
  • The UAE and Bahrain sent their foreign ministers to the event.
  • Not even loyal ministers from his own party were invited, not to mention members of the opposition.
  • An Israeli official said Netanyahu didn’t want to share the red carpet with anyone but his wife, Sara.

Quick take: The prime minister didn’t speak to reporters traveling on his plane. Right after takeoff he tweeted his main talking point: “I am traveling to bring peace for peace.”

  • Regardless of Netanyahu's claims, the peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain came with a price—taking his West Bank annexation plans off the table.

Go deeper

Dec 21, 2020 - World

U.S. warns Chinese investments in Israeli tech industry could pose security threat

Netanyahu meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017. Photo: Xinhua/Rao Ainmin via Getty Images

The Trump administration is concerned Chinese investments in the Israeli tech industry could harm Israeli and U.S. national security, assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs David Schenker said Monday at a conference organized by the SIGNAL think tank, which focuses on Israeli-Chinese academic cooperation.

Why it matters: The Trump administration has previously raised concerns in private about Chinese involvement in Israel’s booming tech sector. This is likely the first time the administration has done so in public.

Blockbuster Supreme Court day

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will give conservatives a lot of what they want — but not quite everything.

Driving the news: It voted 9-0 to carve out religious objections to same-sex marriage, saying foster-care agencies have a First Amendment right to turn away same-sex couples. But it also voted 7-2 to preserve the Affordable Care Act, saying Republican attorneys general did not have the legal standing to bring their lawsuit.

Biden signs bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

President Biden and Vice President Harris with members of Congress after the signing in the White House on June 17. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

"Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments," President Biden said before signing legislation Thursday that establishes Juneteenth as a federal holiday, just two days before the occasion.

Why it matters: The holiday, which will be known as Juneteenth National Independence Day, is now the 11th annual federal holiday and the first one established since the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.