Israeli major disciplined for wearing uniform to political protest

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows an Israeli Black Hawk helicopter flying over the Jerusalem area

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli army officer was removed from his post on Sunday for attending a political protest in uniform, the first such case during a crisis over the government's planned judicial overhaul that has stirred rancour within the military ranks.

Local media identified the officer as a major who was televised carrying a stretcher in a publicity stunt during a pro-government rally that was convened on Thursday in an attempt to off-set months of demonstrations against the reforms.

The military confirmed his rank but, in a statement on his offence, said only that he had taken part in a protest last week while in uniform, and was stripped of his command authorities.

The push by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's religious-nationalist coalition to rein in Israel's Supreme Court has set off concern over judicial independence. He says the legislation, currently on hold, aims to balance branches of government.

The feud has resonated within Israel's armed forces, which draw heavily on conscripts and have long sought to serve as a melting pot for a fractious society. Some military reservists have threatened to refuse call-up orders if the reforms happen.

Voicing worry for the country's war-readiness, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant came out in March against the pace of the overhaul. Netanyahu responded by announcing Gallant's ouster, but backtracked, citing a need to tackle security challenges.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)