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Photo: Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers told Trump administration officials they have reservations about the proposal for a passage connecting the West Bank and Gaza as part of the White House Middle East peace plan, sources briefed on the matter tell me.

Why it matters: The proposal was part of the economic portion of the U.S. plan. It was revealed by the White House to Netanyahu and his aides two weeks before the plan was made public, Israeli officials say. Netanyahu has publicly stressed several times that Israel will keep an open mind about the plan. 

The big picture: The economic plan focused almost exclusively on boosting the Palestinian economy and on investments in infrastructure, health and education. But the $5 billion proposal for a highway and railway between the West Bank and Gaza has political significance.

  • It showed the U.S. sees the West Bank and Gaza as one territorial unit in any future peace deal. That's in conflict with Israel's policy, in place for over a decade, of keeping the West Bank and Gaza separate.
  • The main reservation Netanyahu and his aides conveyed to the Trump administration had to do with security, the sources say.
  • They say Israel gave U.S. officials examples of how even today — with no transportation corridor and Israel in full control of Gaza’s borders — Hamas attempts to transfer operatives, messages and know-how from Gaza to the West Bank by exploiting entry permits granted for humanitarian reasons.

Between the lines: Jason Greenblatt, the White House special envoy for Middle East peace, referred to the issue in remarks two weeks ago at a conference in Israel. His comments went unnoticed and unreported until now.

  • Greenblatt said the White House team tried to avoid political issues in the first phase of the plan, but the Gaza-West Bank passage was an exception.
  • He said the decision to include it was based on the importance of integration between the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians and on the fact that such a passage is necessary to make a success of the economic plan.

Greenblatt said the pushback from the Israeli side "surprised me" because the White House team had made repeated assurances that "Israel's security is first and foremost" in the plan.

  • "We are not suggesting any corridor whatsoever that doesn't completely make Israel comfortable that it will not be a danger to Israel," he said at the conference.

Greenblatt tells me his comments referenced pushback from Israeli private citizens, not the government. 

  • “I am not aware of any official pushback from the Israeli government on this point for now," he added.
  • Greenblatt emphasized the importance of Israel's security and said "this connection can only be a part of a comprehensive deal if it is acceptable to Israel and all security issues can be thoroughly addressed."

Go deeper

Trump pressures Barr to release so-called Durham report

Bill Barr. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump and his allies are piling extreme pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to release a report that Trump believes could hurt perceived Obama-era enemies — and view Barr's designation of John Durham as special counsel as a stall tactic, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Speculation over Barr's fate grew on Tuesday, with just 49 days remaining in Trump's presidency, after Barr gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he said the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread fraud that could change the election's outcome.

CDC to cut guidance on quarantine period for coronavirus exposure

A health care worker oversees cars as people arrive to get tested for coronavirus at a testing site in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The CDC will soon shorten its guidance for quarantine periods following exposure to COVID-19, AP reported Tuesday and Axios can confirm.

Why it matters: Quarantine helps prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which can occur before a person knows they're sick or if they're infected without feeling any symptoms. The current recommended period to stay home if exposed to the virus is 14 days. The CDC plans to amend this to 10 days or seven with a negative test, an official told Axios.

  • The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
4 hours ago - Health

CDC panel: COVID vaccines should go to health workers, long-term care residents first

Hospital staff work in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston. Photo: Go Nakamura via Getty

Health-care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line to get coronavirus vaccines in the United States once they’re cleared and available for public use, an independent CDC panel recommended in a 13-1 emergency vote on Tuesday, per CNBC.

Why it matters: Recent developments in COVID-19 vaccines have accelerated the timeline for distribution as vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna undergo the federal approval process. States are preparing to begin distributing as soon as two weeks from now.

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