Morning Brief

Trump Will Unveil Middle East Peace Plan At Last

Israeli leaders get a chance to see the long-awaited peace proposal at the White House next week.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem on Jan. 23.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem on Jan. 23. Yad Vashem - Pool/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The Trump administration invites Israeli leaders to discuss its Middle East peace plan in Washington, global researchers seek treatments to slow the Wuhan virus, and a Venezuelan opposition politician seeks U.S. support for a new election.

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Israeli Leaders Set to Visit the White House

U.S. President Donald Trump has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz to Washington next week. U.S. officials are expected to at last unveil some of the details of their delayed Middle East peace plan, though it is not clear if it will be shared with the public. The meetings will take place at the White House next Tuesday. Netanyahu has already accepted the invitation and will travel to the United States on Sunday.

The Trump administration completed the plan last year, but it has not yet been publicized: Parts of it were seen as too politically sensitive ahead of Israel’s general elections in September. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a White House advisor, announced the first part of the plan—expanding foreign investment in the Palestinian territories—at a conference in Bahrain in June. The meetings were boycotted by Palestinian officials.

Will this shape Israel’s election? Vice President Mike Pence extended the invitation in Jerusalem this week. Israeli observers say the invitation could boost Netanyahu, preparing for his third election in under a year in March—while facing corruption charges. Gantz previously objected to the publication of Trump’s peace deal, arguing it could interfere with the vote. He reversed that stance this week. By previewing the plan now and including Gantz, the Trump administration is “taking this out of the political realm,” a source told Reuters.

What about the Palestinians? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not invited to the White House. Palestinian leaders have refused to discuss the plan since the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the U.S. embassy there two years ago. The Palestinians rebuffed attempts to discuss the plan through European intermediaries and are expected to reject the plan once it becomes public.

What We’re Following Today

World responds to Wuhan virus. The company behind an experimental anti-Ebola drug is working with researchers in the United States and China to assess whether it could be used to treat the Wuhan coronavirus, which has caused at least 25 deaths in China and around 830 cases worldwide. While the treatment was ineffective against Ebola, researchers say it could fight coronaviruses. Three other research teams are working on potential vaccines. Global markets have been rattled by the outbreak, particularly ahead of the Lunar New Year this weekend.

Wuhan, where the virus was first reported, has been quarantined and nearby Huanggang has shut down public transit. On Thursday, the World Health Organization decided not to declare a global health emergency, though it called the crisis an “emergency in China.”

Venezuelan opposition party seeks new vote. Venezuelan opposition politician Henri Falcón has asked the United States to back a deal with the government of President Nicolás Maduro to nullify the 2018 presidential election—in which Maduro defeated Falcón—and hold it again. Allies of opposition leader Juan Guaidó aren’t likely to go for the deal: Many have criticized Falcón for participating in the 2018 election. Still, it comes amid backchannel communications between Maduro allies and the Trump administration and follows a failed attempt by Guaidó at the World Economic Forum to push for EU sanctions against the Maduro government.

Erdogan and Merkel discuss migration deal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today in Istanbul, where the leaders are expected to discuss a 2016 migration deal between Turkey and the European Union. The agreement allocates $6.6 billion in two installments to Turkey to accommodate the approximately 4 million Syrian refugees residing there, but Ankara alleges that the EU isn’t honoring the deal: It hasn’t paid out the first installment. The deal is politically important for Merkel. But since it was signed, EU-Turkish relations have deteriorated, particularly over human rights issues.

Keep an Eye On

Poland’s judiciary. Tensions are high in Poland after its supreme court ruled on Thursday that judges appointed under new rules put in place by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party don’t have a right to issue judgments. Meanwhile, the parliament approved a bill that would allow punishment of judges who criticize the PiS government’s reforms. The dispute has set up a conflict with the European Union, which says that PiS is trying to silence judges.

Russia’s view on impeachment. As Trump’s impeachment trial continues in the Senate, his supporters aren’t the only ones hoping for a swift conclusion: Many Russians feel the same way, wishing for a return to diplomatic normalcy at a time when their country has been cast as a villain in Washington. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin could be frustrated by the chill with Washington, FP’s Reid Standish reports.

The U.S. ambassador to Bolivia. The United States plans to send an ambassador to Bolivia for the first time since 2008, when then-President Evo Morales ousted Ambassador Philip Goldberg after blaming him for opposition protests. The move comes as the U.S.-Bolivian relationship has improved dramatically since Morales stepped down in November, with the interim president seeking to repair ties.

Odds and Ends

Indigenous reindeer herders in Sweden have won back their exclusive rights to hunt and fish in a 19-mile strip of Arctic Sweden—after nearly 30 years. The Sami district of Girjas Sameby lost its hunting rights in 1993, and the court case to win them back from the state has gone on for 10 years, reaching Sweden’s supreme court. “This is a blow for the Swedish state, which will hopefully mean they have to respect Sami rights,” the district chairman told the Guardian.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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