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Sen. Tom Cotton. Photo: Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

A group of Republican senators led by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to President Trump this week urging him to issue an executive order allowing goods produced in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be labeled “Made in Israel." Axios obtained a copy of the letter.

Why it matters: While the rest of the world views the settlements as illegal under international law and not part of Israel, the Trump administration has taken several steps intended to legitimize them and blur the differentiation between Israel and the West Bank.

  • The letter — signed by Sens. Cotton, Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) — pushes the administration to issue the order before Jan. 20.

The letter was sent to Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.

  • The senators warned that a Biden administration would return to a policy of differentiating between Israel and the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
  • That would make goods from the settlements “prime targets for BDS boycotts," they wrote, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Backstory:

  • Since 1967, all previous U.S. administrations had treated the West Bank and Golan Heights as occupied territory and the settlements as illegitimate.
  • In 1995, after the Oslo Accords were signed and the Palestinian Authority was formed, the Clinton administration issued guidelines that required goods from the settlements to be labeled as “made in the West Bank." The guidelines were not really enforced.
  • In 2016, the Obama administration republished the guidelines and warned that labeling settlement goods as “Made in Israel” could lead to fines. This was seen at the time as a diplomatic signal to Israel over settlement expansions.

What they're saying: The senators claimed that the UN and prominent members of the Democratic Party support BDS and seek to damage Israel economically.

  • “Your administration should undo these misguided Clinton-era guidelines. …This decision would support Israel and push back against anti-Semitism and the BDS movement," they wrote.

What to watch: The move would put another hurdle in place for Biden if, as expected, he seeks to roll back Trump's policies on settlements.

Driving the news: Pompeo is expected to be the first U.S. secretary of state to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank tomorrow.

Go deeper: Pompeo's unprecedented trip

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - World

Israel's chief epidemiologist creates diplomatic incident with UAE

Israeli travelers arrive in Dubai. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images

A remark by Israel’s chief epidemiologist suggesting the opening of direct flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv had led to COVID-19 deaths in Israel resulted in diplomatic protests from the UAE, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: Direct flights were one of the main fruits of the Israel-UAE peace treaty, and around 130,000 Israeli tourists have taken advantage by flying to Dubai since December.

Ro Khanna accuses Biden of quitting Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.