Much of life in Israel came to a halt yesterday: Hospitals stopped providing nonemergency care, planes were grounded at the country’s main airport, and malls and banks closed. The disruptions were part of an escalation in protests against the government’s proposed judicial overhaul, which has plunged Israel into one of its gravest political crises ever.

The interruptions to daily life were the latest sign that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had underestimated Israelis’ opposition to his government’s proposed changes to the courts. In response to the chaos, he has relented, at least in part. Netanyahu announced yesterday that he would delay the changes until later this year. “When there is a possibility of preventing a civil war through dialogue, I, as the prime minister, take a timeout for dialogue,” he said.

The announcement calmed some of the protesters and unions have called off their strikes. But it remains unclear what will happen in the coming weeks — and whether Netanyahu will continue pushing a proposal that has started to fracture even his own cabinet. Israel has dealt with deep political divisions for some time — holding five elections in four years — and the fight over the judicial overhaul has shown that those divisions persist.

Over the last two days, the opposition used all of its power to threaten to shut down the economy unless its views were taken into account, while the other side threatened to use its majority in Parliament to push through their political agenda, Patrick Kingsley, The Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief, explained.

“It was a very high-stakes game of chicken,” Patrick says.

But there’s still disappointment and uncertainty on both sides. “The opposition fears that this overhaul may simply be reinstated in its current form at a later date,” Patrick says. Among right-wing voters, Patrick says, there’s a feeling that their votes don’t count.

Today’s newsletter will focus on the opposition to the overhaul and why it has succeeded, for now, after weeks of protests.

What prompted such large-scale chaos? In short, the extreme change that many Israelis feared the proposed judicial overhaul would bring. Like its American counterpart, Israel’s Supreme Court is very powerful. But with the overhaul, Israel’s Parliament could override the court’s decisions with a simple majority, giving the government sweeping power to enact its preferred policies.

Netanyahu and his allies argue that the overhaul is needed to limit the courts’ power. They believe the courts have become increasingly aggressive and have undermined voters’ choices over the past three decades. One example: The Supreme Court’s blocking of some settlements in the West Bank.

The opposition argues that the overhaul would significantly weaken one of the few checks, besides elections, on Parliament. Israelis in the opposition tend to hold a more secular, pluralistic vision for the country, and see the courts as important to preserving that view. The opposition also says that Netanyahu is pushing for the changes to protect himself because he is standing trial on corruption charges. Netanyahu denies that claim as well as the charges.

That opposition has gained momentum because it unites influential parts of Israeli society: universities, unions and the reservists who play a key role in the military. The backing of such organizations is often the difference between successful and failed protest movements, as my colleague Amanda Taub has explained. “Support from those institutions can be a way for protests to gain leverage over leaders, often by splitting up elite coalitions,” Amanda said.

That kind of split is already visible in Netanyahu’s cabinet. Over the weekend, the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, spoke out against the proposed overhaul, citing opposition from members of the military. “I see how the source of our strength is being eroded,” Gallant said.

Importantly, opposition from within the military goes beyond ideology. Soldiers and reservists argue that if the courts are too weak to provide a check on the military, officials may be more likely to give illegal orders and potentially expose soldiers to prosecution in international courts. “Those concrete concerns about self-interest may be far more difficult for the government to defuse than if the protests were just motivated by ideology and political solidarity,” Amanda wrote.

Netanyahu fired Gallant on Sunday. The dismissal prompted the latest protests in the country, which in turn compelled Netanyahu to pause his plans.

Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul was made possible by a rightward shift in Israeli politics, as this newsletter has explained. His backtracking in the face of heavy opposition suggests that perhaps Israel’s population hasn’t moved as far to the right as he believes.

The overhaul’s delay has calmed the situation for now. But it could also lead to more political chaos: Netanyahu’s coalition holds a slim majority in Parliament, and it could collapse if his right-wing allies believe he is going back on his word. That could force another election, which would be Israel’s sixth since 2019.

At the same time, reviving the overhaul would probably revitalize the protests and potentially splinter Netanyahu’s government again. Either option could cost Netanyahu his power.

  • The overhaul would make Israel “more like elected autocracies” including Hungary and Turkey, Thomas Friedman argues in Times Opinion.

  • By trying to politicize the Supreme Court, the Israeli right is following the lead of American conservatives, Aron Heller writes in Times Opinion.

  • John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine sympathizes with the Israeli right’s critique of the judiciary and calls the protests “self-righteous.” He still thinks the government’s proposed overhaul was “a colossal mistake.”

The women’s Final Four: South Carolina beat Maryland to reach the Final Four for the third straight time, and Virginia Tech overpowered Ohio State to claim the last spot in Dallas. On Friday, South Carolina will play Iowa, led by Caitlin Clark, and Louisiana State will face Virginia Tech, which has reached the semifinals for the first time.

Early favorites: The Houston Astros open the M.L.B. season on Thursday and occupy the top spot in the year’s first power rankings.

A souring relationship: The Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson publicized his trade request minutes before the Baltimore coach John Harbaugh was set to speak at the N.F.L. owners’ meetings.

A government pilot program in Ireland is sending artists a weekly $350 check with no strings attached, allowing them to concentrate on creative pursuits without the pressures of a day job. “If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t be doing art today,” said Ian Fay, a comic book artist in Kilkenny.

Ireland’s program stands out because of its rigor. Officials will study the 2,000 recipients’ finances, work patterns and well-being and compare them with those of a control group of artists getting no payments.

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