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Israeli PM Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo. Photo: Anek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

Israel and Lebanon will soon begin direct talks on the delineation of their shared maritime border, a senior Israeli official tells me. The talks will start in the next few weeks, with the U.S. mediating between the parties.

Why it matters: This is a big step forward in a long-standing conflict that has stalled natural gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean. Solving the crisis could unlock potential natural gas reserves for both countries.

Behind the scenes: The Lebanese wanted joint mediation by the U.S. and the UN, but Israel insisted that the U.S. be the only mediator. As a compromise, the U.S.-mediated talks will be held at a UN facility on the border between the countries.

  • Another Israeli condition, the official said, was that the talks will be on the maritime border only, with no linkage to land border disputes.
  • Direct talks between Israel and Lebanon have been limited to security issues in the past, so this is a very rare development.

The latest: Israeli minister of energy Yuval Steinitz notified a senior State Department official, David Satterfield, yesterday on Israel's agreement to the talks, the Israeli official said. Satterfield has been holding indirect talks with the parties over the last year and is likely to lead the U.S. mediation efforts.

  • A state department official told me: “This is a decision for both Israel and Lebanon to make. The United States stands ready to work towards solutions that are mutually agreeable to both parties.” The Lebanese have not yet commented.

Go deeper

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.
1 hour 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.

Obama: Broad slogans like "defund the police" lose people

Snapchat.

Former President Barack Obama told Peter Hamby on the Snapchat original political show "Good Luck America" that "snappy" slogans such as "defund the police" can alienate people, making the statements less effective than intended.

What he's saying: "You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done," Obama told Hamby in an interview that will air Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. EST on Snapchat.