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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday congratulating him on his 70th birthday and calling him "one of my closest allies," shortly after Netanyahu announced he had failed to form a government for the second time in six months.

Why it matters: The warm contents of the letter stand in stark contrast to the cold shoulder Trump gave Netanyahu after the Israeli election, when he said the U.S. has relations "with Israel," and not with Netanyahu. Trump and Netanyahu haven’t spoken on the phone in five weeks. Their last phone call was three days before the Sept. 17 elections, when Trump tweeted that he discussed with Netanyahu the possibility of a U.S.-Israel defense treaty.

  • Trump wrote in the letter: "There has never been a more productive time in the Israeli-American partnership and I know there are many more victories to come. You are one of my closest allies. I look forward to the continued success we will have working together."
  • The president added in a handwritten comment beside his signature: "You are great!"

Between the lines: Trump’s letter appears to be an attempt to lend political support for Netanyahu, who finds himself vulnerable to pending criminal indictments for corruption after his failure to build a coalition.

  • It's notable that Trump calls Netanyahu "my" ally, as opposed to "our" or the "United States'" ally.
  • Netanyahu’s office, which released the letter, is using it domestically to show the prime minister still has a personal alliance with President Trump, who is quite popular in Israeli public opinion.

The big picture: Later this week, Netanyahu’s opponent Benny Gantz is expected to receive the mandate for forming a government from President Rivlin.

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not meet Gantz while visiting Israel last Friday.
  • Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, however, will meet with Gantz during his expected visit to Israel on Oct. 28.

Read the letter:

Go deeper

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. fears Iran won’t scale back to 2015 nuclear deal

Officials gather in Vienna on Sept. 29 for the first day of renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. officials have extremely low expectations as world powers resume negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, believing the Iranians aren't yet ready to negotiate seriously, Axios is told.

Driving the news: Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have assessed the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, thinks of his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, as a weak accommodationist who negotiated a bad deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.

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