Wednesday Briefing


Amid growing despair and rage, Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are intensifying their appeals to the U.S. to pressure Israel for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. Failure to do so, they say, risks sabotaging the security of the entire Middle East.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has rejected calls for even a temporary cease-fire until hostages are released by Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that, in a brazen attack on Oct. 7, took about 240 captives and killed roughly 1,400 people, according to the Israeli authorities.

Israeli officials insist that their military campaign must destroy Hamas, which rules Gaza and is estimated to have tens of thousands of fighters inside the territory. But Arab officials and scholars who study the Iran-backed militia argue that the goal is not only impossible but counterproductive, in that it would very likely generate even more violence.

What’s next: Arab officials will gather this weekend in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, for a summit, with the conflict topping the agenda.

After 20 months of full-scale war, as Ukraine looks to replenish its forces, efforts are underway to bring more women into the army, including through volunteer groups that offer all-female training. Already, women are in combat in southeastern Ukraine, after the military abolished restrictions that kept them from certain roles and responsibilities.

About 43,000 women now serve in the military, according to the ministry of defense, an increase of about 40 percent since 2021, the year before Russia’s full-scale invasion. The male fighting force has more than tripled over the same period.

The army’s outreach to women is a step toward equality, to be sure, but one that also reflects the tremendous toll the war has exacted. Many of the men who volunteered at the start of the war are dead or wounded, and Ukraine now needs many more soldiers to sustain its resistance to the Russian invasion, even as men increasingly dodge the draft.

From the war:

Just last year, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary hoped to lead a hard-right pan-European movement. Those aspirations are fading, deflated by poor performance at the polls by some of his most fervent admirers, as well as deep divisions over the war in Ukraine and Sweden’s admission to NATO.

Poland’s governing Law and Justice party — a longtime partner of Orban’s Fidesz party in its battles with the E.U. — lost a general election last month. Allies in Spain, Slovenia and Czech Republic have also faltered.

And though Giorgia Meloni, who shares Orban’s views on cultural issues and national sovereignty, is now prime minister of Italy, she has veered away from Hungary over its Kremlin-friendly response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Migrant crisis: An agreement between Italy and Albania, a non-E.U. nation, to outsource the processing and containment of migrants has left some Italian politicians asking whether the deal is legal, ethical, practical or even real.

King Charles III yesterday opened Britain’s Parliament for the first time as monarch — with a speech outlining policies sharply at odds with his longtime support of environmental causes, including a plan to expand oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

Drafted by the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, but delivered by King Charles, the speech is a constitutional oddity, and one with a particular twist this year, as the new sovereign read out bills that included policies likely to run counter to his own once stridently stated views.

Over three decades, “The Simpsons” has changed to meet evolving sensibilities. The show stopped making fun of gay characters, for instance, and no longer uses a white actor to voice Black and Indian characters.

Now, it may be abandoning the long-running joke in which Homer Simpson throttles his son, Bart. “I don’t do that anymore,” Homer said on a recent episode. “Times have changed.”

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a great day. — Natasha

You can reach Natasha and the team at


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