Female tank commanders petition Supreme Court to serve in Armored Corps

The petition by the two women is the second one to be filed against the decision to bar women from serving in tanks.

Israeli female soldiers walk in front of a tank during an exercise at the end of their tank instructors course at Shizafon base (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Israeli female soldiers walk in front of a tank during an exercise at the end of their tank instructors course at Shizafon base
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
Two women who successfully finished the IDF’s tank commanders course and their officer filed a petition to the Supreme Court on Thursday demanding women be allowed to serve in the Armored Corps.
“The IDF of 2020 discriminates against women just because they are women,” said the petition, which was filed against Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the military and the State of Israel by the two women who completed the pilot program as tank commanders.
The petition by Osnat Levi and Noga Shina, along with Afik Shema, one of the officers who accompanied their training, is the second one to be filed against the decision to bar women from the Armored Corps.
In September, Or Abramson, 19, from the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, and Maayan Halberstadt of Jerusalem filed a petition seeking to have the military explain why women are barred from serving as tank drivers, gunners, radio operators and commanders.
Their petition, which calls for the Supreme Court to change regulations to allow women to serve in frontline combat positions, claims that the army’s refusal to let them serve in tanks is a substantial violation of equal rights.
In a statement provided to The Jerusalem Post, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that “no decision has yet been made” on the integration of women in the Armored Corps to serve on the country’s borders.
“This issue will be decided later on,” the military said.
Former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot, under whom the pilot program began, was quoted by Haaretz on Thursday as saying the program “was a success that proved, beyond a doubt,” that women can serve as combat soldiers in the Armored Corps.
“The pilot had difficulties, but when the head of the Ground Forces Command, Maj.-Gen. Kobi Barak, and the head of the Armored Corps, Brig.-Gen. Guy Hasson, presented the findings from the program, it was presented as a success,” he was quoted as saying, following a panel discussion at the Israel Democracy Institute’s Center for Security and Democracy.
“We all came out of the meeting with the understanding that the pilot had been a success, and that women combat soldiers could be integrated into the Armored Corps to protect the borders – and that there could be women-only tank crews to preserve the privacy and intimacy that exists among the tank crew,” Eisenkot said.
But the decision not to integrate women into the corps was “a prime example of manipulation and outside agendas” from the moment the pilot was made public, he said.
“There was a desire on the part of various officials to hurt me, or the army, to thwart the integration of women combat soldiers” in tank crews, Eisenkot said, adding that “from the moment the pilot program was made public, heavy pressure was brought to bear on me by people outside the army not to approve the integration of women” in the Armored Corps.
FORMER CHIEF of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi responded to the petition on Thursday, saying there should be no problem if women can fulfill the requirements needed to carry out an operational mission.
“Wherever women can meet the professional demands of the job, there is no reason not to appoint them,” he said. “It is not a matter of gender but a professional requirement and the operational need. If women can fulfill it like men and the mission is not hurt, I don’t see it as a problem.”
The IDF announced in June that the military had successfully completed a pilot program to train women on tanks in an attempt to integrate women into combat roles in the Armored Corps.
Ten of the recruits who successfully completed the pilot were deployed to the Egyptian border with Division 80, and four of them became tank commanders. One of the first female tank commanders, Sgt. Charlotte Peled-Davidovitch, 20, made aliyah to Israel from England two years ago.
But in April, the military announced that despite the successful pilot program, women would not be able to serve in the Armored Corps.
According to the IDF, the decision to freeze the project was 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,” and that it was decided instead to strengthen other existing coed combat units.
The IDF said the reason for the decision was the cost-benefit calculations of the separate training and allocation of combat units, not the physical abilities of the female soldiers.
Last week, former IDF ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick told Walla News he had recently spoken to four of the women who completed the tank commanders course and found them to be full of motivation and having outstanding professional abilities.
“Some had previously been instructors in the Armored Corps, so they were on a very high level. Their commanders also praised them highly,” he said, adding that the military “chose women who have the physiological abilities to fulfill their tasks even better than male fighters.”
While he agreed that women should not go into enemy territory, they should be “incorporated into a company that does work on the border – companies that help hold the line,” he said, pointing to the decrease in motivation by males to serve in combat units, including the Armored Corps.
The IDF said there would be no mixed-gender tank crews, and female tank crews will not be part of battalions that would operate in enemy territory; they would instead only be deployed to the borders.