Monday, 24 Jun 2024

Your Tuesday Briefing: Netanyahu Shifts Course

Netanyahu backs off 

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.

A former Taiwanese president’s historic visit

Taiwan’s former president, Ma Ying-jeou, landed in China on Monday, in the first visit to the country by any sitting or former Taiwanese leader since the end of China’s civil war in 1949.

The 12-day visit is unofficial, but it is likely to be watched for how Beijing might seek to influence Taiwan ahead of the island democracy’s presidential election in January. Ma’s trip overlaps with a visit to Central America and the U.S. by Taiwan’s current president, Tsai Ing-wen, and highlights key differences between their parties.

Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party, has strengthened U.S.-Taiwan ties during her eight years in office, while Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party, also called the Kuomintang, bills itself as better able to deal with Beijing.

Analysis: Beijing’s cultivation of a relationship with the Kuomintang, once the mortal enemy of Mao Zedong’s Communists, is a concession that China must make to Taiwan’s democracy, a political scientist at the Australian National University told The Times.

U.S. interests in Africa

Vice President Kamala Harri‌s has begun a weeklong tour of Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia. Her visit is a step toward revitalizing the relationship between the U.S. and its African allies, which has flagged amid China’s growing influence in the region.

Harris, the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit Africa, will aim to reassure U.S. allies in the region that Washington is focused on fostering innovation and economic growth as well as addressing corruption, violence and human rights issues.

Some African leaders have insisted that they do not just want lectures on democracy from Western leaders, but also more economic partnership, preferential trade agreements and access to finance at fair rates. Harris is expected to make several announcements on American public- and private-sector commitments.

China’s approach: In contrast to Washington, Beijing pays assiduous diplomatic attention to even small African nations. The countries Harris is visiting count China among their top trade partners, far ahead of the U.S. Some nations, including Zambia, have also borrowed more money from China than they can likely repay.


Asia Pacific

Meet China’s new vice premier, a Xi Jinping loyalist overseeing the economy.

North Korea conducted its seventh missile test in less than a month.

From Opinion: Here’s how China keeps putting off a debt crisis.

Around the World

Ukraine plans to rebuild its massive Mriya cargo plane — a symbolic gesture in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.

Safety concerns persist at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.

A battle over daylight saving time led to chaos in Lebanon.

Tensions are high in Syria: Iran-backed militias attacked U.S. coalition bases after American reprisals for a drone attack that killed a U.S. contractor.

Scotland’s top party picked a new leader, Humza Yousaf. He is on course to be the first Muslim leader of a democratic western European nation.

Other Big Stories

Twitter said that parts of its underlying computer code were leaked online.

Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse has dried up funding for tech start-ups. The bank will be acquired by First Citizens in a government-brokered deal.

A woman shot and killed six people at a school in Nashville in the United States.

A Morning Read

The Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 92, is getting married for the fifth time, to Ann Lesley Smith, 66. Becoming a newlywed in one’s 90s is a rare chance to embark on a new adventure late in life — and a privilege rarely available to women.


Welcome to A.I. boot camp

We have a new pop-up newsletter that will teach you everything you need to know about artificial intelligence in just five days. Sign up here.

The term “artificial intelligence” was coined in the 1950s, as academics set out to build a machine with the capabilities of a human brain, and it gets tossed around a lot to describe anything that seems vaguely futuristic. But progress on the technology was relatively slow until around 2012, when a single idea shifted the entire field.

It was called a neural network — a mathematical system that learns skills by finding statistical patterns in enormous amounts of data. It allowed services like Siri and Alexa to understand speech, identify people and translate dozens of languages.

Then, around 2018, companies like Google, Microsoft and OpenAI began building neural networks that were trained on large language models, vast amounts of text from the internet.

Somewhat to the surprise of experts, these systems learned to write unique prose and computer code, laying the foundations for ChatGPT and other chatbots, which are poised to dramatically change our everyday lives. In our On Tech: A.I. pop-up newsletter, Kevin Roose and Cade Metz will walk you through the future.

Related: Scientists are discussing if A.I. chatbots have developed theory of mind.


What to Cook

Microwave-steamed eggs are an easy and elegant way to jump-start your morning.

What to Read

“Grey Bees,” by the Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov, recently won a National Book Critics Circle Award.

What to Watch

“Succession” is back for its final season. Read our (spoiler-filled) recap of the premiere.


A low-pressure guide to making strength training a habit.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Knight’s horse (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Mariah

P.S. Read about how the word “tattoo” has changed throughout The Times’s history.

“The Daily” is about kids and social media.

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