Tuesday Briefing: Israel’s Top Court Rejects Move to Limit It

A demonstration against a proposed judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv in September.Credit…Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Israel’s Supreme Court rejects a move to limit its power

Israel’s Supreme Court narrowly struck down a law proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was meant to limit the court’s own powers. The momentous ruling, which was decided by a majority of eight judges to seven, could ignite a constitutional crisis.

Here’s the latest.

Members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party said the Supreme Court’s decision was “in opposition to the nation’s desire for unity, especially in a time of war.” They slammed the court for ruling on the issue while Israeli soldiers were “fighting and endangering themselves in battle.”

The decision is likely to rekindle the grave domestic crisis that began a year ago over the right-wing government’s judicial overhaul plan, which led to mass protests that brought the country to a near standstill at times. It heralds a potential showdown between the court and the ruling coalition that could fundamentally reshape Israeli democracy.

Background: The law would have barred judges from using the legal concept of “reasonableness” to overrule decisions made by lawmakers and ministers. In a country that has one house of Parliament, no formal written constitution and a largely ceremonial president, many people view the Supreme Court as the only bulwark against government power. The government argued that “reasonableness” was ill-defined and subjective.

In Gaza:

Israel announced that it would begin withdrawing several thousand troops from Gaza, at least temporarily. The military emphasized that the move did not indicate any compromise of Israel’s intention to continue fighting, or heeding American requests to scale back.

The fighting remains intense. Half of Gaza’s population of about 2.2 million is at risk of starvation and 90 percent say that they regularly go without food for a whole day, according to the U.N.

A collapsed road and houses after an earthquake in Wajima, Japan, yesterday.Credit…Kyodo, via Reuters

A powerful earthquake struck Japan

Western Japan was hit by an earthquake that set off evacuation orders in several prefectures, trapped people under collapsed buildings and disrupted electricity for tens of thousands in Ishikawa Prefecture, the quake’s epicenter, officials and Japan’s public broadcaster said.

Here’s the latest.

The quake struck the Noto Peninsula at around 4:10 p.m. and had a magnitude of 7.6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The U.S. Geological Survey reported a 7.5 magnitude. Here’s a map of the areas that were affected.

Officials issued tsunami warnings, then downgraded them to advisories, but they warned that aftershocks and tsunamis could continue for up to a week.

Yuki Kondo-Shah, a diplomat, successfully fought an assignment restriction from Japan.Credit…Mary Turner for The New York Times

Caught up in U.S.-China spy tensions

In the growing espionage war between the U.S. and China, some American federal employees with ties to Asia, even distant ones, say they are being unfairly scrutinized. They say U.S. counterintelligence and security officers wrongly regard them as potential spies and bar them from jobs in foreign policy and national security.

The paranoia weakens the U.S., they say, by preventing qualified employees — including many Asian American ones — from serving in diplomatic missions, intelligence units and other critical posts where their fluent language skills or cultural background would be useful.


Around the World

BYD’s profits tripled in the first half of last year.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • The Chinese car company BYD sold more than three million electric and hybrid cars in 2023, its most ever.

  • Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was declared the winner of December’s election despite accusations of fraud.

  • Burundi’s president said that gay people in his country should be stoned, amid a widening anti-L.G.B.T.Q. crackdown.

  • The PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf league extended their deadline to finalize a deal on a partnership.

Other Big Stories

  • High interest rates and home prices are driving down the U.S. home market and related sectors.

  • Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Europe’s longest-serving monarch, announced that she would abdicate the throne.

  • A Moscow prison wedding offered a glimpse into the lives of Russia’s political prisoners.

A Morning Read

Carrying offerings in Rio de Janeiro.Credit…Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

In the 1950s, followers of an Afro-Brazilian religion, Umbanda, began gathering on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on New Year’s Eve to make offerings to Iemanjá, a sea goddess of motherhood and fertility. After the area began hosting a fireworks show in the 1980s, the event became one of the world’s largest New Year’s celebrations, attracting more than two million revelers each year.

But it remains one of the holiest moments of the year for devotees of Afro-Brazilian religions that have roots in slavery, worship an array of deities and have long faced prejudice in Brazil.


The “Steamboat Willie” version of Mickey Mouse entered the public domain on Jan. 1.Credit…LMPC, via Getty Images

These classics are losing their copyrights

In 2024, thousands of copyrighted works published in 1928 are entering the public domain after their 95-year term expires, including Tigger, Peter Pan and the original, black-and-white version of Mickey Mouse. This means that those characters and stories can be remade without permission. So if you prefer your childhood favorites to be never-changing, well … you might want to stop reading.

In February, Tigger is set to join his old friend in a slasher film — the sequel to “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey,” in which that lovable bear becomes a sledgehammer-wielding maniac. We could also get new versions of Peter Pan, the song “Mack the Knife” or the D.H. Lawrence novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

Here’s the full list of everything hitting the public domain this year.


Credit…Kate Sears for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Cook: Hoppin’ John is a rice-and-peas dish with deep roots across the U.S.

Anticipate: Here are the shows, movies and more that our critics are looking forward to in 2024.

Recover: Feeling tired? Take our quiz to find out why, and kick off Well’s 6-Day Energy Challenge.

Remember: Tom Wilkinson died on Saturday at 75. “Michael Clayton” exemplifies his genius as a character actor.

Play Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Justin

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