Israeli military reinstates colonel amid judicial protest

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Israel’s air force reinstated a reservist officer who had been dismissed for allegedly trying to orchestrate walkouts from training flights to protest the government’s planned judicial change, the military said on Friday.

Protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right government’s drive to change the judiciary have mounted since January when the changes, that would include curbing Supreme Court powers, were first announced.

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The row over the plan has since plunged the country into one of its greatest political crises in years.

The military provided no further details on the reinstatement. Army Radio said that air force chief Major-General Tomer Bar reversed his Thursday decision to dismiss the officer after the two met and the colonel made clear that he had not been organizing walkouts.

On Sunday, 37 reservist pilots and navigators from an F-15 squadron said they would skip a training day to protest the plan, jarring Israelis who widely see their conscript military as a melting pot above politics and alarming defense chiefs.

Netanyahu, on trial for corruption charges he denies, says the judiciary overhaul will restore balance between branches of government and boost business.

But critics at home and abroad see it as an effort to hollow out judicial independence, a move that will isolate Israel and wreak havoc on its economy.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid on Friday presented his own judicial reform plan that would include drafting a constitution to safeguard rights and liberties and keep the judiciary independent.

President Isaac Herzog has been pushing the sides to reach a compromise on the judicial changes. On Thursday he called for the government’s plan to be scrapped and urged the politicians to take responsibility and hammer out agreements.

Lapid is demanding the government freeze any legislation to allow for talks but Netanyahu’s coalition, while calling for dialogue and broader understandings, is still set to plough ahead with the overhaul at parliament next week.

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