Female recruits petition Supreme Court to let them serve in Armored Corps

Or Abramson and Maayan Halberstadt claim military is violating their rights by not allowing them to serve in tanks.

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September 10, 2019 17:56
3 minute read.
Female infantry soldiers of the Caracal Battalion carry a comrade on a stretcher

Female infantry soldiers of the Caracal Battalion carry a comrade on a stretcher during a 23-kilometer march marking the end of their training. (photo credit: DARREN WHITESIDE / REUTERS)

Close to 25 years after Alice Miller successfully sued the military for her right to enlist in the IAF, two female recruits have petitioned the Supreme Court to force the IDF to allow them to serve in the Armored Corps.

Or Abramson, 19, from the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, and Maayan Halberstadt of Jerusalem filed a petition on Tuesday seeking to have the IDF explain why women are barred from serving as tank drivers, gunners, radio operators and commanders.

According to Haaretz, Abramson has been told that her request to serve in the Armored Corps could not be granted, but that she could be placed in a combat position with the Home Front Command. Halberstadt was told she could serve in a combat position in the Artillery Corps.

Their petition, which calls for the Supreme Court to change regulations to allow women to serve in front-line combat positions, claims that the army’s refusal to let them serve in tanks is a violation of equal rights.

The Defense Service Law that had been amended following Miller’s lawsuit stated that every man and woman has the right to serve in any position in the military unless the inherent nature of the position requires otherwise.

In June, the IDF had announced that in an attempt to integrate women into combat roles in the Armored Corps, four female soldiers had successfully completed a pilot program to train on tanks and become tank commanders.

But the military announced in April that despite a successful pilot program in which 10 female soldiers were trained on tanks, women would not be able to serve in the Armored Corps.

The decision to freeze the project was taken based on a situational assessment of the ground forces, which found that the next stage of the pilot program “would require significantly more manpower and resources to undertake,” the military said at the time, adding that it was decided instead to strengthen other existing coed combat units.

According to the IDF, the reason for the decision was the cost-benefit calculations of the separate training and allocation of combat units and not the physical abilities of the female soldiers.

But in August, chief Armored Corps officer Brig.-Gen. Guy Hasson said that the IDF’s decision was not final, and the attempt to integrate female combat soldiers into their own tanks had not been dropped from the agenda.

“We have very significant and groundbreaking experience that took us about a year-and-a-half and maybe even more where we tried to see if a female combat team could be integrated into border protection missions, and I emphasize, border protection missions,” he said, adding that within a year the IDF “will decide whether to proceed to the second phase of this experiment.

“The trial was very significant and I personally accompanied it; also, I know the girls personally. We finished the experiment and have concluded how, if required, we can incorporate female teams into border defenses.”

The main focus of the pilot program was the physical abilities of the female recruits, who are divided into teams led by a male soldier commanding a Merkava Mark III tank. Throughout all phases of the program, the recruits were accompanied by experienced tank commanders, doctors, nutritionists and fitness experts.

The pilot program began with 15 female recruits beginning basic training in southern Israel. Two recruits dropped out after two weeks. The 13 remaining recruits then moved to Shizafon, where they were divided into three squads headed by a senior tank commander, completing their tank training on the Mark III.

Ten of the recruits who began the course and completed it successfully were deployed to the Egyptian border with Division 80, and four of them became tank commanders. One of the first female tank commanders, 20-year-old Sgt. Charlotte Peled-Davidovitch, made aliyah from England two years ago.

The IDF stated that even if the pilot program is deemed successful, there would be no mixed-gender tank crews, and female tank crews will not be part of battalions that would operate in enemy territory but would instead only be deployed to the borders.



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