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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

We start with reports of Arab countries and the U.S. trying to negotiate a three-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. It would be in exchange for the release of up to a dozen hostages being held in the Gaza Strip, according to The Associated Press. The discussions come amid a worsening humanitarian crisis inside the Palestinian enclave as Israel expands its ground and air campaign.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Meanwhile, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is facing political problems at home. Many Israelis blame him for security failures that led to the October 7 Hamas attack. Inside Israel, there are growing calls for Netanyahu to step down.

FADEL: NPR's Lauren Frayer has been reporting on all this in Tel Aviv and joins us now. Hi, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: OK, so who's been calling for Netanyahu to resign? And what is it that's pushing them to do that? What do they want?

FRAYER: It's people like Noam Tibon. He's a retired major general in Israel's army. And on October 7, he grabbed his pistol and raced south from his home in Tel Aviv and ended up joining gun battles with Hamas. He was shocked by what he calls a colossal breakdown of Israeli security. And he told me there's one person he blames.

NOAM TIBON: Benjamin Netanyahu cannot stay even one more day on the chair of the prime minister. He is a failure, and he must go.

FRAYER: You know, Netanyahu long positioned himself as tough on security.

FADEL: Right.

FRAYER: Earlier this year, though, he tried to weaken Israeli courts. He's also on trial for corruption. So before this war, Tel Aviv was filling with 100,000 protesters calling for him to resign over other stuff. And now there are fresh protests blaming him for these security lapses. Most of the rallies have been for the more than 240 hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas. You know, at first, many of their families and friends were sort of unsure about raising their voices. Now some of them are calling for the prime minister's resignation. And the question is really when. Even some of Netanyahu's longtime critics say political change shouldn't happen during the war.

FADEL: I mean, I also heard that from a lot of survivors who talked about, for hours, having nobody come help them. Has Netanyahu addressed this?

FRAYER: He's been repeatedly asked whether he will resign. And here's what he told foreign reporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The only thing that I intend to have resign is Hamas. We're going to resign them to the dustbin of history.

FRAYER: He says there will be an investigation. He's happy to answer questions, but only after the war. Meanwhile, Israel's defense minister, the military chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet, the domestic security agency, they have all personally accepted responsibility. A municipal official from Netanyahu's Likud party for the south, where actually the attacks happened, resigned on live TV. Netanyahu has visited soldiers preparing to go into battle in Gaza, but he has not publicly gone to any of the funerals of those killed on October 7.

FADEL: Oh, wow. I mean, how representative is this feeling? Domestically, what is the public opinion of Netanyahu?

FRAYER: There was a poll this month that found 76% of Israelis want Netanyahu to resign. Another one late last month put his approval rating lower than at any point since surveys began 20 years ago. But, you know, as you know, Netanyahu has managed to get the opposition to join him in a war government. I talked to one of his biographers, who says Netanyahu knows he probably has a window of opportunity to salvage his legacy during this war because he probably won't be in office much longer after that.

FADEL: NPR's Lauren Frayer in Tel Aviv. Thanks, Lauren.

FRAYER: You're welcome. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Republican presidential candidates met for a third debate last night in Miami, Fla.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And a smaller slate of five candidates onstage made for some heated confrontation. That's even with the party's front-runner, former President Donald Trump, across town at his own rally.

FADEL: NPR's Domenico Montanaro was at the debate in Miami and joins me now. Good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Morning. Glad to be here.

FADEL: So, Domenico, what are the biggest things people need to know coming out of Wednesday's debate?

MONTANARO: Well, the stage was really winnowed down here. I mean, there were five candidates, and it really at times felt even smaller than that. You really got the sense that there were really two clear tiers here. You know, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, were really at the top of that. And then there was really the rest. You had a much more subdued Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor. And you could sense a bit of desperation in the air, really, for South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and Vivek Ramaswamy, the former tech CEO.

You know, this was the first debate since the Israel-Hamas war, so I was really interested to hear how the candidates would talk about this. And it was a very hawkish stage. You know, Tim Scott even explicitly called for a strike inside of Iran. And here's what some of the candidates said at this debate hosted by NBC News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

RON DESANTIS: I would be telling Bibi, finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas.

NIKKI HALEY: The last thing we need to do is to tell Israel what to do. The only thing we should be doing is supporting them and eliminating Hamas. It is not that Israel needs America. America needs Israel.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend itself.

FADEL: So it sounds like a lot of agreement there. Domenico, what stuck with you from last night?

MONTANARO: Well, yeah. I mean, there weren't really a ton of fireworks at this debate, you know, but it really got ugly between Ramaswamy and Haley. Ramaswamy came out swinging hard. He even called for the Republican National Committee chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, to resign. And he really seemed to want to go after Haley. Here he was attacking her on foreign policy and Haley's response at this debate hosted by NBC News.

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RAMASWAMY: She made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So you might want to take care of your family first before preaching to anybody else.

HALEY: Leave my daughter out of your voice.

RAMASWAMY: Your adult daughter...

(BOOING)

RAMASWAMY: The next generation of Americans are using it. You have her supporters propping her up. That's fine.

HALEY: You're just scum.

RAMASWAMY: The easy answer...

FADEL: Ooh.

MONTANARO: Yeah, you could hear her kind of do a little bit of a Will Smith PG-13 Oscar impression there, you know? And I've never quite heard at a debate another candidate call another - a fellow colleague scum. And that's what Nikki Haley did, and it was really kind of surprising to hear. But Ramaswamy going after her daughter, that really seemed to be a bridge too far for everyone on the stage and the audience.

FADEL: So some fireworks there. What was missing from the debate? Any topics you expected but didn't hear much about?

MONTANARO: I was really surprised that they got to the election results from Tuesday and abortion so late - you know, really with only about 15 minutes left in the debate. And, you know, the candidates really just continued to have few answers to the problem Republicans continue to face when it comes to how they talk about abortion rights. You know, some complain that there wasn't enough money spent to win these ballot initiatives, that there weren't competing referenda. You know, Tim Scott called for a federal 15-week ban, which is something he wouldn't commit to early on in the campaign and something that really didn't exactly win the day in Virginia, where Democrats took over the full legislature, and the governor there had campaigned on a 15-week ban. And Nikki Haley continues to call for a consensus position, which really walks a pretty risky line. But really very few answers here for Republicans on how to win over the middle.

FADEL: Really quickly, I mean, you're saying not many standout moments. Will this impact Republican primary voters?

MONTANARO: Not much really changes here. It was really like watching a play-in game for the NCAA tournament with a 65th versus 66th seeds trying to fight to play against the top team.

FADEL: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

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FADEL: The Hollywood actors' strike ended at midnight, 118 days after it began. The union, SAG-AFTRA, reached a tentative new contract with the major studios and streaming companies.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, members of the union still need to ratify the proposed contract, but now they'll be able to get back to work. Now, just to note, many of us at NPR are members of SAG-AFTRA, but under a different contract, and we were not on strike.

FADEL: NPR's Mandalit del Barco has been covering the actors' strike since it began, and she joins us from Los Angeles. Good morning, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Good morning, finally.

FADEL: Yes. So what do we know about this agreement?

DEL BARCO: Yeah. Well, we are not privy to all the details yet, but the union's negotiating committee is calling it a billion-dollar deal of, quote, "extraordinary scope." In a statement, they said the agreement includes increases in compensation, a bonus for participating in streaming shows. And very key to the actors, dancers, voiceover actors, stunt performers are protections from artificial intelligence. The negotiators say they're thrilled about the deal that they voted for unanimously. And last night at a party after the deal was announced, committee member and actress Shari Belafonte told The Hollywood Reporter that she was especially proud of the AI protections.

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SHARI BELAFONTE: This was monumental. We cannot have done this without the solidarity, the support and the love that we felt from the picket lines.

FADEL: So throughout the strikes, things seemed pretty tense between the union and major studios and streamers, right?

DEL BARCO: That's true. The studios and streaming company heads originally said the actors' and the writers' demands were not realistic and too expensive, and union leaders chastised the executives for being greedy. But as the strike dragged on, the executives seemed less fiery and more interested in getting a deal done, and they stepped in to personally bargain with the union hours before the deal was announced. This is what Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Disney CEO Bob Iger had to say.

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DAVID ZASLAV: We recognize that we need our creative partners to feel valued and rewarded and look forward to both sides getting back to the business of telling great stories.

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BOB IGER: Obviously, we'd like to try to preserve a summer of films. The entire industry is focused on that. We don't have much time to do that.

DEL BARCO: So many film premieres have been delayed because of the strikes, and the upcoming TV season had been in jeopardy. It's not clear how long it will take to start productions again, but a lot of people are raring to go. But on the other hand, there may be far fewer TV shows for the actors to be in.

FADEL: What are union members saying about the deal?

DEL BARCO: Well, from what I've seen, relief that it's finally over. SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher hopped on social media to celebrate the victory, and so did the members of the negotiating committee. Actor Zac Efron found out the news at last night's premiere of the wrestling movie "The Iron Claw."

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ZAC EFRON: I'm so happy that we're all able to come to an agreement. Let's get back to work. Let's - I'm so stoked.

DEL BARCO: But there are still hurt feelings that could take time to get over. Here's SAG-AFTRA strike captain Chelsea Schwartz outside Amazon Studios yesterday.

CHELSEA SCHWARTZ: How do you go from being so angry at these people to being like, and we're best buds now, working together on set, you know? It's - we forgive, but you don't forget.

FADEL: So what happens now?

DEL BARCO: Well, the union leaders have to send the tentative contract to the National Board, and then their 160,000 members will vote whether or not to ratify it. But already, union leaders ended the strike last night and said no one will be picketing anymore. So they may soon be performing again, and cameras may soon be rolling. Since the strike is over now, they're already promoting their work, tweeting about their new shows and movies, doing interviews, showing up on red carpets for premieres. Being on strike and out of work has been so rough on so many people, and everybody I talked to told me they just really want to get back to work, whether or not they're in one of the unions or not.

FADEL: NPR culture correspondent Mandalit del Barco in Los Angeles. Thanks, Mandalit.

DEL BARCO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.