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Bennett with Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty

President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reaffirmed the strategic understandings between the U.S. and Israel regarding Israel’s alleged undeclared military nuclear program during Bennett's White House visit, a senior Israeli official briefed on the meeting tells me.

The big picture: This has become a ritual for every U.S. president since Richard Nixon in their first meeting with the Israeli prime minister.

  • The U.S. commits not to press Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or give up its alleged nuclear arsenal, while Israel agrees to maintain its "nuclear ambiguity" and refrain from any nuclear tests or threats of a nuclear strike.
  • Analysts believe Israel has had a military nuclear program since the late 1960s that now includes more than 200 warheads for its long-range Jericho missiles. Israel has never acknowledged any such program and claims it “won’t be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East."

Flashback: The strategic understandings were first discussed between Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1969, at which point the Israeli nuclear capability had crossed the point of no return.

  • Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton reiterated those oral understandings in their first meetings with their Israeli counterparts.
  • In 1998, during the Wye River peace conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked President Bill Clinton to turn the oral understanding to a written document. Clinton agreed and signed a letter committing that the U.S. would allow Israel to retain its “strategic deterrence” capability regardless of any non-proliferation initiative.
  • In 1999, when Ehud Barak replaced Netanyahu, Clinton signed the letter again. So did President George W. Bush when working with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

When Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, Netanyahu's government was concerned he would press Israel on the nuclear issue, but Obama signed the letter during their first meeting in May 2009, the Washington Times reported several months later.

  • Donald Trump signed the letter ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu in February 2017. But according to the New Yorker, Trump's aides hadn't been aware of the understandings or the letter and at that chaotic time, the White House thought the Israelis were blindsiding them.

What they're saying: Bennett and his aides declined to comment on this issue, as did the White House.

Go deeper

Clinton Foundation donations plummet 75%

Chelsea, Hillary and Bill Clinton appear at the 2018 Clinton Global Initiative conference, staged by the Clinton Foundation. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Donations to the Clinton Foundation plummeted to $16 million last year, down nearly 75% from the organization's peak when former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was running for president, records reviewed by Axios show.

Why it matters: The foundation was a financial juggernaut in the years after Bill Clinton served as president and while his wife led her own political career. In the time since, COVID-19 shuttered the sort of public events that had driven millions to the group — although Clinton loyalists expect increased donations this year.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker