tuesday briefing israels top court rejects move to limit it

Plus New Year’s offerings to the sea in Brazil.

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

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.

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