Israeli reservist colonel dismissed over judicial reform protest

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The Israeli air force said on Thursday that it had dismissed a reservist officer in the military for trying to orchestrate group walkouts from training flights as part of a spreading protest at judicial reforms planned by the government.

In its first disciplinary measure during the political crisis roiling Israel, the military said in a statement that the colonel, whose name as not been published, “behaved ... in a manner unbecoming of his officer’s rank and station.”

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Separately, air force chief Major-General Tomer Bar said the colonel “took upon himself inappropriate authority in his contact with the IAF pilots. Unionizing to synchronize absence from service, though coming from good intentions, is forbidden.”

Thirty-seven reservist pilots and navigators from an F-15 squadron said on Sunday they would skip a training day to “devote our time to dialogue and reflection for the sake of democracy and national unity.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition plans changes to the judiciary that would include curbing Supreme Court powers. Netanyahu says this will restore balance between branches of government but critics see it as an effort to hollow out judicial independence.

The protest in the ranks jarred Israelis, who see their conscript-based military as a melting-pot that should be kept free of politics. Air force crews in the reserves take part in training as volunteers, without a legal obligation to attend.

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