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News Brief: Israeli-Palestinian Violence, Vote On Liz Cheney, Inflation Data

NOEL KING, HOST:

Violence between Israelis and Palestinians keeps escalating without any clear resolution in sight.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue his military offensive in Gaza after two days of Israeli airstrikes. Those airstrikes killed at least 30 Palestinians, including 10 children. Israel says this is in response to a barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Israel says at least five people were killed. In three days of all this violence, the conflict has widened to include street fights between Israeli and Palestinian citizens within Israel.

KING: NPR's Daniel Estrin is in the Israeli city of Lod today where a state of emergency has been declared. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi there.

KING: What has been happening there? What's happening there now?

ESTRIN: It's a city that's usually peaceful, but it's near the Tel Aviv International Airport, and it was one of the cities that has been under attack during an unprecedented number of rockets fired toward Tel Aviv and neighboring areas. This is rare rocket fire deep inside Israel being fired from Gaza. A 63-year-old grandmother, Israeli woman named Leah Yom-Tov, is one of those who was killed when a rocket hit her home yesterday. And then today, early in the morning, not far from where I am now, a father and a teenage daughter, Halil and Nadine Awad, they're Palestinian citizens of Israel, and they were killed when a rocket hit their home. I met a supermarket cashier in the city, Tanya Isaev (ph). She's Jewish. She said she was up all night with her young kids who were frightened from the air raid sirens. And they would run into the stairwell of their apartment when the sirens went on in the building. And they would meet their neighbors who'd come out from the door across from them, a Palestinian Arab family. And here's what she told me.

TANYA ISAEV: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: She said, "I hugged my neighbor's kids and my neighbor hugged my kids."

KING: Daniel, what is happening now in Gaza on the other side of this conflict?

ESTRIN: Residents have been up all night hearing the whoosh of rocket fire leaving Gaza toward Israel, the booms of Israeli warplanes striking inside Gaza. The Israeli military says it's targeted several residential buildings and militants and airstrikes. Early in this round of fighting, there was one strike that targeted the home of the Masri family in Gaza. Apparently, one militant was killed there, unrelated to the family, but also five members of the same family killed, including two brothers, an 8-year-old, Rahaf, 10-year-old Yazan, according to officials in Gaza. And my colleague in Gaza visited the families of the wounded in the hospital and just saw their anguish. One mother said, our boys were killed on behalf of Jerusalem. Palestinians perceive Jerusalem's under threat from Israel. But then other family members were cursing the spokesman of Hamas, the militant group in Gaza, saying this fight for Jerusalem will not bring back our loved ones.

KING: Is anyone trying to stop this conflict?

ESTRIN: There are reports of Arab and international mediators trying to encourage a cease-fire. But I spoke with a senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He told me Israel is nowhere near a cease-fire right now. The goal of Israel is to stop the rocket fire and to deter this unprecedented rocket fire.

KING: And I want to ask you about something that Rachel mentioned, which is the violence seems to be expanding, right? It started in Jerusalem. That led to air attacks. Now there's fighting in the streets in some areas. What is happening? Why is it getting bigger?

ESTRIN: It is worrisome because it's not these masses of people like we've seen in Jerusalem protesting against police. It's very personal violence between youth in streets, between neighbors. Israel has declared a state of emergency in the city where I'm in; in a very rare move, sent paramilitary troops from the West Bank to this normally peaceful city.

KING: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Lod, Israel. Daniel, thank you so much.

ESTRIN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: All right. House Republicans will meet this morning to vote on whether to remove Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership role.

MARTIN: Yeah. This is all about truth and consequences here. The vote to remove Cheney from her post as the third-ranking House Republican is going to be held behind closed doors. Her role, we should say, as conference chair was crafting and driving the party's message. But Cheney has been accused of breaking with the vast majority of House Republicans over their support of former President Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.

KING: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is following this one. Good morning, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Noel.

KING: What do you expect from today's vote?

DAVIS: Well, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, you know, her fate appears to be sealed. Her opponents are pretty confident they have the votes to force her out later today. She seems to have accepted that. But she also, as you heard, is not backing down over the reasons why she's losing this job. She has been very clear that she sees former President Trump's actions to undermine the 2020 election based on no credible information as a threat to democracy. As you mentioned at the top, she spoke last night on the House floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHENEY: I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy.

DAVIS: So what comes next for her is a vote on recalling the chair. This will take place by a secret ballot, and it will require a simple majority of the current 212 House Republicans.

KING: And if she is removed, what happens then?

DAVIS: Well, they'll have to elect her replacement, but it's not entirely clear that that's going to happen today. There is an effort among some House Republicans to delay the follow-up leadership election. Her expected successor is New York Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. She's currently running unopposed for the job, but some conservatives think she's too moderate. No one stepped up to challenge her, and she has the endorsement of Donald Trump and other top House Republican leaders. But folks like Texas Congressman Chip Roy sent a letter to Republican colleagues yesterday criticizing her, noting that she voted against things like Trump's 2017 tax cuts and for things like gay rights in the past. He even suggested they just leave the leadership job vacant for right now. Virginia Congressman Bob Good is one who agrees with Roy. He told reporters this yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB GOOD: Representative Stefanik does not represent our party effectively to be the messenger of the conservative majority.

DAVIS: Stefanik herself has pushed back against this. She briefly told reporters yesterday she has strong support from people in the Freedom Caucus, which is the hard-right faction of the House. So unless someone challenges her, she is expected to eventually get the job.

KING: OK. Republicans in the House at least have clearly decided that sticking with Trump is the way to win control of the House in 2022. Are there any Republicans saying, you know, guys, maybe this is not such a great move?

DAVIS: What's fascinating is we're sort of seeing this divide play out between House and Senate Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has clearly made the decision that the only path to win the House is with Trump. They want him endorsing candidates. They want him campaigning. They want him working with their incumbents. And they only need to pick up about a half a dozen seats. Senate Minority Whip John Thune sees it a little differently. He's also running for reelection in 2022. He told reporters yesterday that if they keep talking about the 2020 election, then, quote, "we're going to lose the 2022 election." So, you know, senators like Thune are more likely to say the 2020 election was fair. And we're sort of seeing the party run sort of two simultaneous experiments to see which strategy delivers more victories next year.

KING: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Thanks, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: How worried should we be about inflation?

MARTIN: As the U.S. economy opens up more fully, prices on certain goods are also going up. Economists measure inflation in part using something called the Consumer Price Index. It tells us what some basic things cost. And this morning, we're going to get some new data.

KING: NPR's David Gura is following this one. Good morning, David.

DAVID GURA, BYLINE: Hey, Noel.

KING: What do economists expect to see in the data?

GURA: Yeah, the forecast is for an increase in prices in April of 3.6% since April of 2020. And that would be the largest increase we've seen in years. As you know, businesses are reopening. They're having a hard time keeping up with demand. It's hard to get supplies, and hiring has started to get difficult. On top of that, interest rates are extremely low. There's been trillions of dollars in government spending. So that's the backdrop. And what the Federal Reserve wants to see - its goal is for inflation long term to be around 2%. And what the Fed chair has said over and over again is that any uptick in prices we see right now is, one, expected and, two, it's not going to last. I talked to Bill Lee. He's the chief economist at the Milken Institute, and he says to look at this number we're going to get today in a broader context.

WILLIAM LEE: The one thing economists always try to do is distinguish between a price pop and inflation.

GURA: He says that nuance is important. A price pop is a temporary spike, it's an outlier. Inflation, on the other hand, is a steady rise in prices that lasts.

KING: And so what does this mean for the economy, whether we get a pop or inflation?

GURA: Yeah, if prices continue to go up, there is a steady rise, it could be difficult for consumers, especially for low-wage workers. We are in the middle of an economic recovery, but millions are still out of work. They're struggling. And if prices go up and stay up, the Federal Reserve could decide to raise interest rates sooner than it said it will. Right now, they're near zero, and the expectation is they're going to stay there for a couple more years. Again, what we've heard from the Fed chair, also from the Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, is that when the economy gets up and running, supply and demand are out of balance. And this increase in prices is just a temporary thing. But we have heard from some big executives in recent weeks about supplies getting more expensive. So they're wrestling with what to do about that. Are they going to cut costs or are they going to try to absorb some of these price increases? Or is this something that they're going to have to pass on to consumers? And many companies have decided to do that.

KING: OK. So what does that mean for me, like, going to the grocery store?

GURA: Yeah, your groceries are likely to get more expensive. Kellogg's, General Mills, they've said cereal is going to cost more. Procter & Gamble is going to raise the price of diapers. Manufacturers are saying they're going to raise prices on appliances like washers and dryers and dishwashers. Economist Julia Coronado is with the firm MacroPolicy Perspectives. And I asked her what it's going to mean for consumers but also for this recovery generally if prices keep going up. And she says there are some economists who think that because consumers are willing, have gotten more money from the federal government, they've got these direct payments, they'd be willing to pay higher prices.

JULIA CORONADO: It'll take probably several months before we see whether consumers' behavior has fundamentally changed with respect to prices.

GURA: She's also paying attention to wages. That's important here. We're seeing these record profits from companies, Noel, but wages have not gone up, and now employers are starting to offer incentives, bonuses, more money so that they can attract new workers and hopefully get them hired by these companies.

KING: Yeah, some of those incentives are interesting. NPR's David Gura. Thanks, David.

GURA: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDDIE JOACHIM'S "RAIN FALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.