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Secretaries Blinken (left) and Lavrov. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry\TASS via Getty

Russia has asked Israel to encourage the U.S. to agree to hold high-level trilateral talks on Syria, two senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Israel's main focus in Syria is getting Iran out, and that would likely only be possible through U.S.-Russian cooperation. 

Flashback: The U.S., Russian and Israeli national security advisers last met to discuss Syria in Jerusalem in June 2019, with John Bolton representing the U.S.

  • Bolton was fired two months later, and there was no follow-up meeting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov raised the issue with his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid when they met in Moscow two weeks ago, and the Russians have also raised it with Bennett's national security adviser, Hulata.

  • Last Thursday, White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk met in Geneva with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and with Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev.
  • The Russians requested the meeting and wanted to discuss steps toward a political solution in Syria and to see if the U.S. was willing to offer sanctions waivers to allow oil and gas to travel through Syria to Lebanon, which is facing dire shortages.
  • According to the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, McGurk raised the potential withdrawal of Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias from the areas close to the border with Israel in the Golan Heights.

What’s next: Israeli officials tell me they support a trilateral meeting between the national security advisers. The White House says "there are no trilateral meetings to preview."

  • Bennett is also expected to visit Moscow in the coming weeks for his first meeting with Putin.

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 Oct 23, 2021 - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause (R), chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality, or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.