New York Times Morning Briefing Mar 27 2023

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would delay his government’s contentious plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary, after days of massive street protests, counter-protests and strikes that halted some health services and blocked flights from leaving Israel’s main airport. Follow live updates.

Netanyahu’s reversal came after the head of a powerful far-right political party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said he was open to postponing the vote, giving Netanyahu room to step back. His concession is an attempt to de-escalate the civil unrest, but he risks destabilizing the government. Many of his hard-right coalition partners had resisted any suggestion of a delayed vote.

“When there is a possibility of preventing a civil war through dialogue, I, as the prime minister, take a time out for dialogue,” Netanyahu said in a speech announcing the delay.

It was unclear whether the delay would calm the protests. Israel’s main labor union called off a general strike after the announcement, but one protest group said it would keep demonstrating until the proposal was shelved.

Divisions: Critics fear the changes would remove checks and balances on the government and erode democracy. Supporters say the plan would curb an overreaching and unelected judicial bureaucracy. The fight has become a stand-in for a deeper ideological and cultural dispute.

Demonstrations: The protests have been going on for weeks. Netanyahu’s firing of the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, who had cited growing unease in the military in his call for a halt to the process, set off intense demonstrations on Sunday. Protesters returned to the streets on Monday, blocking a major road in Tel Aviv. Here’s what it has looked like.