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Global Nuclear Weapons Spending Reaches $91.4 Billion in 2023, ICAN Reports

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ICAN Report Highlights Alarming Increase in Nuclear Arms Investments Amid Calls for Disarmament

In a startling revelation, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) reported that the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries collectively spent $91.4 billion on their arsenals in 2023. This equates to nearly $3,000 every second, reflecting a significant push towards modernizing and expanding nuclear capabilities.

Alicia Sanders-Zakre, co-author of the report, expressed her concern, stating, “This money is effectively being wasted given that the nuclear-armed states agree that a nuclear war can never be won and should never be fought.” The $91.4 billion spent annually could fund wind power for over 12 million homes or address 27% of the global funding gap to combat climate change, protect biodiversity, and reduce pollution.

The report highlights a $10.7 billion increase in nuclear weapons spending from 2022, with the United States leading the charge, accounting for 80% of the rise. The U.S. spent $51.5 billion, more than all other nuclear-armed countries combined. China followed with $11.8 billion, and Russia with $8.3 billion. The United Kingdom’s spending also saw a significant increase, up 17% to $8.1 billion.

The remaining nuclear powers, including France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea, collectively spent $11.6 billion. Companies involved in the production of nuclear weapons secured contracts worth nearly $7.9 billion in 2023. Over the past five years, nuclear-armed states have spent a total of $387 billion on their arsenals.

ICAN’s report emphasizes that this surge in spending does not enhance global security but instead increases the threat to people worldwide. Arms control experts warn of a new arms race, with nuclear powers expanding their arsenals contrary to the spirit of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Washington’s concerns about China’s rapidly growing nuclear arsenal are significant. Pentagon estimates suggest China could have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, up from around 200 in 2019. This rapid expansion has prompted calls for U.S. policymakers to reassess the size and composition of America’s nuclear forces.

International anxiety over nuclear threats was evident at the G7 summit in Italy and the Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland. G7 leaders condemned Russia’s threats of nuclear weapon use and called for de-escalation. The final declaration at the Ukrainian peace conference echoed this sentiment, despite notable holdouts from countries like India and South Africa.

Melissa Parke, ICAN’s Executive Director, highlighted the increased nuclear tensions between Russia and the West due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. The ICAN report profiles 20 countries involved in nuclear weapons development, noting that there are $335 billion in outstanding contracts related to nuclear weapons work.

Despite the increase in nuclear spending, there is also growing global resistance to these weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has signatures from nearly 100 countries, and 111 investors representing about $5 trillion in assets support the treaty. They demand that more efforts be made to exclude the nuclear weapons industry from their business activities.

The ICAN report underscores the urgent need to shift away from nuclear weapons spending towards initiatives that promote global security and sustainability. The escalating investments in nuclear arsenals pose significant risks, making it imperative to pursue disarmament and reduce tensions.

Africa

EU Tightens Schengen Visa Rules for Somali Nationals

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The European Union introduces stricter Schengen visa regulations for Somalia to improve readmission cooperation. Changes include single-entry visas, higher fees, and longer processing times.

In a decisive move, the European Union Commission has proposed stringent new visa regulations for Somalia. This initiative aims to enhance cooperation on the readmission of Somali nationals who have entered and stayed in the EU without proper documentation. The proposed changes, pending EU Council approval, include issuing only single-entry visas, increasing visa fees, and extending application processing times from 15 to 45 days. Additionally, the EU may suspend certain regulations requiring the submission of supporting documents for visa applications.

“Despite steps taken by the EU and its Member States to improve readmission cooperation, Somalia’s efforts remain insufficient,” the EU Commission declared. This proposal forms part of the EU’s broader strategy to manage irregular migration within its borders by ensuring countries cooperate on the readmission of their nationals.

The EU has implemented similar measures against other countries, such as Ethiopia and The Gambia. In April, multiple-entry Schengen visas were halted for Ethiopians, and visa fees were increased for Gambian nationals, although the fee hike was later revoked. Other measures against The Gambia remain in place.

The Commission’s statement noted that the proposal would soon be presented to the EU Council, where member states will decide on the next steps. This move underscores the EU’s firm stance on managing migration and ensuring compliance with readmission agreements.

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Analysis

Historic Decision: US Presidents Who Chose Not to Seek Reelection

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Analyzing the Rare Choices of American Leaders to Step Down Voluntarily

The announcement from President Joe Biden that he would not seek reelection in 2024 has added him to a rare list of American leaders who chose to step aside. This decision, made just weeks before the Democratic National Convention, comes amidst growing concerns over his age and performance. Let’s delve into the history of other presidents who made similar choices and the reasons behind their decisions.

James K. Polk, inaugurated in 1845, entered the presidency with a clear set of goals, such as the annexation of Texas and acquiring the Oregon Territory. Back then, pledging to serve only one term was seen as a mark of personal humility. Polk, having achieved his objectives, honored his commitment and did not run for reelection in 1848.

James Buchanan, elected in 1856, also pledged to serve only one term. By the end of his presidency, the nation was deeply divided over slavery, a situation Buchanan failed to manage effectively. His unpopularity and the fractured state of the Democratic Party likely influenced his decision not to run again in 1860.

Rutherford B. Hayes, after a controversial election in 1876, also pledged to serve a single term. Disputed electoral votes and claims of fraud marred his victory. True to his word, he did not seek reelection in 1880, partly due to the lingering legitimacy issues from his initial election.

Calvin Coolidge took office in 1923 after Warren G. Harding’s death and won the 1924 election. Despite his popularity and a booming economy, Coolidge declared in 1927, “I do not choose to run for president in 1928,” expressing his disinterest in power and desire to leave public life.

Harry S. Truman, having completed nearly two full terms, decided not to run for reelection in 1952. His presidency faced low approval ratings due to the Korean War and corruption scandals. Truman chose to step aside, giving the Democratic Party a chance to nominate a new candidate.

In 1968, amidst the Vietnam War and internal party challenges, Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek reelection. Despite winning a full term in 1964 after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson’s declining approval and anti-war sentiment pushed him to withdraw from the race.

Joe Biden’s decision in 2024 mirrors these historical precedents. Initially positioning himself as a “transitional candidate,” Biden sought to address multiple national challenges. Running unopposed in Democratic primaries, he eventually bowed to concerns about his age and performance. By stepping aside and endorsing Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden joined a unique group of presidents who chose to forgo a second term.

While running for reelection has become the norm in modern politics, these historical instances show that stepping down can sometimes be seen as a responsible move, allowing new leadership to emerge. Presidents who opted not to run again often did so due to personal commitments, political challenges, or to pave the way for their party’s future success. Biden’s choice, though extraordinary in today’s context, aligns with a tradition of prioritizing the nation’s needs over personal ambition.

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Netanyahu’s US Visit Ignites Controversy and Arrests

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Protests Erupt Over Gaza Conflict and US Military Aid

The U.S. political landscape was electrified this week as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington ignited a series of passionate protests. Demonstrators, galvanized by the ongoing Gaza war, staged a dramatic sit-in at a congressional office building, resulting in multiple arrests.

Netanyahu arrived in Washington on Monday, meeting President Joe Biden and preparing for a highly anticipated address to Congress on Wednesday. Protesters, organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, swarmed the Cannon Building, home to members of the House of Representatives, wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with “Not In Our Name.” Their chant, “Let Gaza Live!” echoed through the rotunda, culminating in a wave of arrests by Capitol Police who zip-tied and led them away one by one.

Among the arrested was Jane Hirschmann, a Holocaust survivors’ daughter from Saugerties, New York. She and her two daughters, also detained, passionately criticized U.S. support for Israel. “When we say ‘Never again,’ we mean never for anybody,” Hirschmann declared, highlighting the perceived hypocrisy in Biden’s simultaneous calls for cease-fire and continued military aid to Israel.

The protesters’ anger was primarily directed at President Biden, demanding an immediate halt to arms shipments to Israel. Hirschmann’s sentiment captured the protest’s essence: “We’re not focusing on Netanyahu. He’s just a symptom. But how can Biden be calling for a cease-fire when he’s sending them bombs and planes?”

The Capitol Police were unable to confirm the number of arrests, but Jewish Voice for Peace claimed 400 individuals, including over a dozen rabbis, were detained. Mitchell Rivard, chief of staff for Representative Dan Kildee, expressed confusion over the demonstrators targeting his office, given his opposition to a recent military aid package to Israel.

Netanyahu’s visit has stirred diverse reactions, with protests not only condemning Israel’s actions but also urging a cease-fire deal to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas. On Tuesday evening, families of these hostages held a vigil on the National Mall, pleading for Netanyahu to negotiate their release. “I’m begging Bibi. There’s a deal on the table and you have to take it,” implored Aviva Siegel, a former hostage whose husband remains captive.

As Netanyahu prepares to address Congress, the Capitol has bolstered security measures, anticipating further protests. President Biden and Netanyahu are slated to meet Thursday, with Vice President Kamala Harris also scheduling a separate meeting. Interestingly, Harris will miss Netanyahu’s congressional address due to a prior engagement in Indianapolis, a trip arranged before Biden’s recent campaign withdrawal.

Adding another layer to the unfolding drama, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced plans to meet with Netanyahu on Friday, underscoring the high-stakes nature of these diplomatic and political maneuvers.

This week’s events underscore the volatility and complexity surrounding U.S.-Israeli relations, the Gaza conflict, and the broader geopolitical landscape. As tensions continue to flare, the world watches closely, anticipating the next moves of these key political figures.

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Elections

Trump, Harris Trade Insults in Newly Energized US Presidential Campaign

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Biden’s Withdrawal Sets Stage for High-Stakes Showdown Between Trump and Harris

The U.S. presidential race exploded with fresh energy on Tuesday, as former President Donald Trump and his new Democratic opponent, Vice President Kamala Harris, wasted no time launching barbs at each other. The gloves are off as they sprint toward the November election, making no attempt to hide their disdain.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden quietly returned to the White House, having just recovered from COVID-19. He faces growing pressure to make significant foreign policy strides in his remaining time. Biden’s unexpected exit from the race, prompted by concerns about his health and dwindling poll numbers, has left the political scene in a frenzy.

Trump, never one to miss a beat, immediately took aim at Harris. “Lyin’ Kamala Harris destroys everything she touches!” he declared on his Truth Social platform. He accused her of covering up Biden’s health issues, claiming the Democrats misled the public and wasted Republican resources targeting Biden.

Harris, a seasoned prosecutor from California, didn’t hold back either. She knows how to handle Trump’s tactics and made that clear during a rally, implying she was ready for the fight. Her prosecutorial background and resilience are coming to the fore as she steps into the spotlight.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Trump, recently convicted on 34 felony counts related to hush money paid to an adult film star in 2016, continues to rile his base. Despite these legal woes, his loyal supporters remain steadfast. Biden, wrapping up his term, has thrown his full support behind Harris, endorsing her in an emotional speech to her campaign staff. “I’m not going anywhere,” he promised, vowing to be active on the campaign trail with her.

Biden’s decision to step down makes him the first president since Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to withdraw from a reelection bid. His withdrawal initially sparked speculation of a heated contest among Democrats, but Harris quickly garnered overwhelming support. By Monday night, she had effectively secured the party’s nomination, with heavyweights like Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood’s George Clooney rallying behind her. Clooney, who had recently called for Biden to end his candidacy, shifted his formidable fundraising prowess to Harris’ campaign.

The momentum behind Harris is undeniable. Her campaign has already raised over $100 million since Biden’s announcement, a clear sign of her strong support base. As she considers potential running mates, names like Arizona Senator Mark Kelly and various governors are floating around, adding intrigue to the evolving race.

Trump, having secured the Republican nomination, is not slowing down. He’s set to kick off his campaign with a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, a critical battleground state he won in 2020. The contrast between his fiery rhetoric and Harris’ focused determination sets the stage for a dramatic and contentious election season.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Harris as a formidable force in American foreign policy, underscoring the importance of Biden’s remaining time in office to tackle global issues. Biden’s agenda includes addressing the Middle East conflict, countering Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and strengthening alliances in the Indo-Pacific.

Analysts agree that despite Biden’s impending departure, significant work remains. “An eighth of his presidency is still left, and there continue to be real challenges,” said Navin Nayak of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Biden is focused on critical issues without the distraction of a campaign, a dynamic that presents both challenges and opportunities for his administration.

Foreign leaders are navigating this transitional period with caution. Israel’s Prime Minister, preparing to meet with Biden, Harris, and Trump, represents the delicate balance international players must strike. University of Texas history professor Jeremi Suri highlighted the complexities foreign leaders face, knowing Biden’s tenure is nearing its end.

As the U.S. hurtles toward November, the political landscape is more electrified than ever. Trump and Harris are poised for a battle that promises to be as historic as it is contentious, with the future of the nation hanging in the balance. The race is on, and the world is watching.

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Analysis

Secret Service Director Resigns Amid Trump Assassination Attempt Scandal

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Kimberly Cheatle Steps Down After Unprecedented Security Breach at Trump Rally Sparks Outrage and Investigations

Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle announced her resignation following the shocking assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump at a Pennsylvania rally. This incident has triggered a fierce outcry over the agency’s glaring security lapses, leading to an unprecedented scrutiny of its ability to fulfill its core mission.

Cheatle, who took the helm in August 2022, faced mounting pressure to step down as investigations revealed how the assailant, Thomas Matthew Crooks, managed to get dangerously close to Trump. In a candid email to her staff, Cheatle admitted, “I take full responsibility for the security lapse,” and expressed the heavy heart with which she decided to resign.

The fallout from the July 13 debacle is unlikely to die down soon, with critical events such as the Democratic National Convention and the presidential campaign season looming. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have vowed to continue their probes, with President Joe Biden himself calling for an independent and bipartisan investigation to ensure accountability.

“The scrutiny over the last week has been intense and will continue as our operational tempo increases,” Cheatle wrote, acknowledging the relentless pressure on the agency.

Cheatle’s resignation came just a day after a grueling congressional hearing where she was lambasted by both sides of the aisle for the security failures. She branded the assassination attempt as the Secret Service’s “most significant operational failure” in decades, taking full responsibility yet frustrating lawmakers by dodging specific inquiries about the incident.

Despite her defiant stance at the hearing, claiming she was still the “right person” to lead the agency, her position became untenable. When Republican Rep. Nancy Mace suggested she start drafting her resignation letter, Cheatle curtly replied, “No, thank you.”

The chilling details of the incident revealed Crooks managed to get within 135 meters of the stage before opening fire, despite warnings about a suspicious person and the roof’s vulnerability. Cheatle admitted to Congress that the Secret Service had received multiple alerts about Crooks but failed to act decisively, a damning revelation that only fueled the outrage.

A bloodied Trump was swiftly whisked offstage by Secret Service agents as snipers neutralized the shooter. The former president later revealed the bullet had pierced the upper part of his right ear, with the attack also resulting in one fatality and two critical injuries among the rallygoers.

Cheatle, who had a storied 27-year career in the Secret Service before a brief stint at PepsiCo, was appointed by Biden in 2022 amid controversies surrounding the agency, including missing texts from the January 6 Capitol riot. Her tenure saw her becoming the first woman to head the protective operations division and later the second female director of the Secret Service.

Despite Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s initial support, bipartisan calls for Cheatle’s resignation became deafening. Congressional committees swiftly moved to investigate, with subpoenas issued and top leaders from both parties demanding her departure. Biden’s order for an independent review and the Secret Service’s own inspector general probe underscore the gravity of the situation.

In a stark interview with ABC News days after the shooting, Cheatle described the incident as “unacceptable,” reiterating that the ultimate responsibility lay with her. Yet, the mounting evidence of systemic failures made her position increasingly indefensible.

As the dust settles, the resignation of Kimberly Cheatle marks a critical juncture for the Secret Service. The agency now faces an uphill battle to restore its reputation and reassure the public of its capability to protect national leaders in these perilous times. The coming weeks promise more revelations and intense scrutiny as investigations delve deeper into the failures that allowed an assassination attempt on a former president to come so perilously close to success.

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Africa

Tensions Rise as Uganda Braces for Anti-Corruption Rally

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Heavy Police Presence in Kampala Following President Museveni’s Stern Warning to Protesters

Uganda’s capital, Kampala, witnessed an intense police crackdown on Tuesday as authorities geared up to thwart a planned anti-corruption rally. President Yoweri Museveni, who has dominated the East African nation for nearly four decades, sternly cautioned protesters that they were “playing with fire.”

The rally, spearheaded by opposition leader Bobi Wine and his National Unity Platform (NUP), has been deemed illegal by the government. Wine revealed that the NUP headquarters had been besieged by police and military forces, intensifying the already charged atmosphere. On Monday, three opposition lawmakers, including Francis Zaake, Charles Tebandeke, and Hassan Kirumira, were detained, adding to the mounting tensions.

Inspired by the Gen-Z-led protests in neighboring Kenya, Ugandan youths have mobilized online, urging citizens to “march on parliament” under the hashtag #StopCorruption. Leading protester Shamim Nambasa emphasized the youth’s determination to confront corruption and reclaim their country’s future.

Despite the call to action, police spokesman Kituuma Rusoke firmly stated that any demonstrations jeopardizing national peace and security would not be tolerated. AFP journalists reported roadblocks and a significant police presence, particularly near Kampala’s business district and around the NUP headquarters.

Uganda’s struggle with corruption is well-documented, with the country ranked 141 out of 180 on Transparency International’s corruption index. Several high-profile scandals have underscored the pervasive nature of graft, fueling public outrage and calls for accountability.

As the situation unfolds, Uganda stands at a critical juncture, with its youth poised to challenge the entrenched political order. The outcome of these protests could reshape the nation’s political landscape and redefine the fight against corruption in Uganda.

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Analysis

Kamala Harris Secures Democratic Nomination Amid Political Turmoil

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VP Kamala Harris Poised to Lead Democrats in 2024 Election After Biden’s Shocking Withdrawal

Vice President Kamala Harris has unofficially secured enough support to become the Democratic Party’s candidate in the upcoming November presidential election. This pivotal development follows President Joe Biden’s unexpected withdrawal from the race, an announcement that has further roiled U.S. political waters at a crucial juncture in the Gaza conflict.

The Associated Press revealed that Harris now commands the backing of over 2,200 delegates, easily surpassing the 1,976 required to clinch the nomination. This tally, derived from public statements by state parties and delegate interviews, underscores Harris’s growing momentum within the Democratic ranks.

As Biden’s exit reverberated through political circles, Democratic leaders swiftly moved to finalize the nomination process. Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison confirmed that the party will officially choose its nominee by August 7, ahead of the August 19-22 Democratic National Convention.

Harris, who has been a steadfast ally to Biden, expressed her readiness to take on the mantle. “I look forward to formally accepting the nomination soon,” she stated on Monday. This declaration comes on the heels of a remarkable fundraising surge, with Harris amassing over $80 million shortly after Biden’s announcement.

Support for Harris has coalesced rapidly, with numerous Democratic officials and influential figures endorsing her candidacy. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a significant force within the party, publicly threw her weight behind Harris, praising her leadership and vision for America’s future.

“Today, it is with immense pride and limitless optimism for our country’s future that I endorse Vice President Kamala Harris for president of the United States,” Pelosi declared, reflecting a broader consensus among Democratic stalwarts.

Several prominent Democratic governors have also rallied around Harris, including J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, and Gavin Newsom of California. Speculation is rife about potential vice-presidential picks from this cohort, though Harris has yet to comment on her preferences.

Harris’s political journey, from a California senator to the vice-presidential nominee in 2020, has been marked by resilience and ambition. Despite facing a challenging reelection campaign alongside Biden, she now stands as the party’s presumptive leader in the face-off against former President Donald Trump.

The Trump campaign has wasted no time in targeting Harris, with a provocative ad accusing her of concealing Biden’s alleged mental decline. “Kamala was in on it,” the ad asserts, suggesting she knowingly supported Biden despite his perceived weaknesses. Harris, however, remains undeterred, confidently championing her record and contrasting it sharply with Trump’s controversial tenure.

“Donald Trump wants to take our country backwards to a time before many of our fellow Americans had full freedoms and rights. But we believe in a brighter future that makes room for all Americans,” Harris proclaimed at a campaign event, signaling her readiness for the intense battle ahead.

Trump, having accepted the Republican nomination at a recent convention, is set to revive his combative campaign style. As the political landscape shifts dramatically, Harris’s emergence as the Democratic candidate heralds a fiercely contested election, with profound implications for the future of U.S.-Israel relations and global diplomacy.

The stakes could not be higher as Harris prepares to solidify her nomination, navigate complex international issues, and confront a relentless opponent in Donald Trump. The upcoming months promise a riveting and high-stakes political saga, capturing the attention of a nation on the brink of profound change.

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Analysis

Netanyahu’s Critical DC Visit Amidst US Political Turmoil and Gaza War Escalation

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Biden’s Withdrawal Adds Uncertainty to US-Israel Relations at a Pivotal Moment

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival in Washington on Monday night coincided with a bombshell announcement from President Joe Biden: he’s stepping out of the 2024 presidential race. This unexpected turn of events injects a fresh dose of uncertainty into the already tense US-Israel relationship, particularly as the Gaza conflict rages on without a cease-fire in sight.

Netanyahu’s visit, announced back in June, raised eyebrows given the ongoing violence. But now, with American politics in flux, the Israeli leader’s mission is clear: lay the groundwork for strong ties with the next US administration, whoever leads it.

A senior US official confirmed that Biden and Netanyahu are slated to meet at the White House on Thursday. “I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel,” Netanyahu stated as he left Israel, underscoring his intent to maintain robust ties regardless of the upcoming presidential outcome.

Though Netanyahu publicly maintains a stance of neutrality between the likely candidates—Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Donald Trump—insiders suggest his true preference is clear. Jonathan Rynhold, head of Political Studies at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, notes, “Republicans generally align more with Israel’s security agenda and show greater leniency towards its right-wing policies.”

Trump’s administration set a high bar with its pro-Israel moves: the groundbreaking Abraham Accords, relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Netanyahu is reportedly eager to meet with Trump to quash rumors of tension following Netanyahu’s congratulations to Biden in 2020, which soured their relationship. Trump’s blunt warning to Israel to “get back to peace and stop killing people” hasn’t helped matters.

Meanwhile, Vice President Harris, set to meet Netanyahu separately from Biden, has emphasized her commitment to Israel’s security. Her Jewish connections—her husband, Doug Emhoff, is Jewish—have been instrumental in combating antisemitism. Yet, Harris will skip Netanyahu’s congressional speech, heading instead to Indianapolis to address a historically Black sorority, a move likely influenced by progressive and Muslim voters’ discontent over Gaza.

Despite Harris’ expected alignment with Biden’s Middle East policies, she may adopt a tougher rhetoric on Israeli settlements and show greater empathy towards Palestinian issues. Aaron David Miller of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace predicts her administration would remain “mainstream” in supporting US-Israel relations but with sharper critiques of certain Israeli actions.

Domestically, Netanyahu is navigating a critical period as the Israeli Knesset nears recess. He aims to advance his political agenda, potentially leveraging a cease-fire deal. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted at a possible agreement, though analysts are skeptical it will last beyond an initial six-week pause.

In essence, Netanyahu’s DC visit is a high-stakes maneuver amid a rapidly changing political landscape. As he seeks to cement bipartisan support and prepare for potential shifts in US leadership, the outcomes of his discussions in Washington could have far-reaching implications for Israel and the broader Middle East.

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