President Donald Trump's busy week ahead includes a major foreign policy decision designed to show solidarity with a key ally, but one that also has Washington and the Middle East on edge.
The early word is that the President will state publicly that the United States is officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but is holding off, for now, on moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.
A fair compromise, is how team Trump advocates of such a move characterize it. It allows the President to edge closer to his campaign promise to relocate the embassy but stops short of a move that would anger Palestinians -- and upend years of US policy treating Jerusalem as a so-called "final status" issue to be settled by the Israelis and Palestinians through negotiation.
The lobbying over the speech and its exact wording will continue up to the moment of delivery. Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times underscored how complicated -- and consequential -- this moment is.
"A lot of his pro-Israel and religious conservative supporters wanted to see him [move the embassy]. He's punting on it a second time. And I'm hearing he's getting a lot of pressure to actually say in this speech this is the last waiver he'll sign, this is the last time he'll delay the decision," Davis said.
"It's not clear that they've actually laid the groundwork in the Arab world or in the Middle East at all for this kind of a speech, which is going to be a very significant statement. There's a possibility, too, that it could actually violate some UN Security Council resolutions that do not recognize the sovereignty of Israel."
2) Wedding cake case makes it to the Supreme Court -- gay rights v. religious liberty?
On the official Supreme Court docket, it is Masterpiece Cake Shop Ltd., v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In shorthand, it's the wedding cake case.
And the outcome will set a major precedent in finding the dividing line between religious liberty and discrimination. At issue: a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple on the grounds that it violated his religious convictions.
It's one of the major issues facing the high court in the current term, and Julie Pace of The Associated Press noted it is also a legal ruling that will shape an often contentious political debate.
"The couple is really worried that this will open up the door to a wide range of discrimination from businesses against same-sex couples," Pace said. "The baker argues that he's an artist and he shouldn't be compelled to make a cake that violates his religious views ... There's a lot of interest from both sides here; [it's] a big argument to watch this week."
3) Decision time: Spending debates will force strategy decisions by Democrats
Republicans control both the House and the Senate, but Democrats have some leverage in the year-end spending and policy decisions that have to be made on Capitol Hill -- on issues ranging from children's health care and Obamacare fixes to efforts to protect the so-called dreamers.
Democrats may have leverage, but do not have the sway to get everything they want. Some might also object to what conservatives demand in exchange.
Sahil Kapur of Bloomberg discussed how Democrats are debating what is worth the most effort -- and whether they are prepared to withhold their votes, and perhaps trigger a government shutdown, if they can't get what they want.
"Democrats are debating amongst themselves how far to go, how hard to push and force this battle," reveals Kapur. "There are three things they want: Obamacare stabilization, they want to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program and they want a DACA fix. Republicans need their votes to keep the government funded ... we'll see what happens."
4) A big year one priority slips to year two
It is take two for the President's big infrastructure promise. Or, to be more exact, take one will wait until year two.
Remember, a giant public works spending package was a key Trump promise for the first year of his presidency. But it never moved from talking point to policy proposal so -- along with Obamacare repeal -- will be high on the list of promises not kept when the President's first year in office is scored.
But the White House is now promising it will be a 2018 priority. The details, though, remain murky. Michael Warren of The Weekly Standard said the vague signals -- and mixed signals -- are creating some confusion in Congress.
"Maybe we're actually going to get something in the next year, before the midterms, on infrastructure. The administration has got a goal, I'm hearing, of something like early summer," Warren said. "What I'm hearing from Capitol Hill is some complaints that the administration's a little vague, not entirely clear about what they want. General idea is, though, more flexibility to states -- and that means of course more money to spend on roads, bridges, these sorts of things."
5) Timing is everything! Ripple effect of the Flynn deal
If you believe the old line that timing is everything in politics, the timing of the Michael Flynn plea deal interesting -- in at least a couple of ways.
One: Special counsel Robert Mueller's spending comes into public view in the days ahead. You can be sure some Trump allies will make the case that enough is enough, and that it's time to wind down and stop spending taxpayer money.
A guilty plea and promise of cooperation from the President's former national security adviser makes it difficult to challenge Mueller from a productivity standpoint.
Two: As the legal fallout from the Flynn plea agreement rattles the West Wing, the timing also could impact administration morale -- which in turn can have an impact on personnel decisions. Working in the White House or other major agencies is exhausting in normal circumstances. Then there's the first year factor, and the fact that team Trump has not fully staffed many offices and agencies. It all adds to the burden of those who are on the job. We are already seeing a trickle of departures, and the end of the year is the traditional time for people to decide to move on.
Many veterans of White House work see the anxiety over Flynn's decision to cooperate with investigators as perhaps tipping the scales a little for those who are torn between departing at year's end, or staying on.
"The biggest issue on Flynn is the impact on staff morale and the effect on departures," said a veteran Washington hand plugged in to the Trump White House. "The legal issues aside."