IDF forms committee to examine allowing women into all combat units

The committee led by Ground Forces Head Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick comes in response to petition by four teenagers asking High Court to force IDF to allow women to try out for combat units

Female combat soldiers in the mixed-gender Caracal Battalion train in urban warfare. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Female combat soldiers in the mixed-gender Caracal Battalion train in urban warfare.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The IDF has formed a committee to consider allowing women to serve in all combat positions. The decision is in response to a recent petition to the High Court of Justice that asked it to force the military to allow women to try out for units that are currently open only to men.
“IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi decided at the beginning of July 2020 to form a professional committee with the goal of seriously and thoroughly considering – from a wide, inclusive and in-depth point of view – the possibility of integrating women into additional combat positions in the IDF,” the IDF said in a statement.
The committee will be led by OC Ground Forces Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick. His deputy will be Brig.-Gen. Eliezer Toledano, outgoing OC Gaza Division and a former commander of the Paratroopers Brigade.
“Men and women with senior positions in the IDF who have relevant, operational and professional expertise in a variety of fields will take part in the committee,” the IDF said, adding that it will carry out its work over the course of the year.
The committee will investigate a number of factors, including physiological and medical considerations, human resource planning, how the women would try out for the units, how it would affect the military’s command structure going forward, how it would affect reserve service, how to have co-ed service while maintaining propriety, the IDF said.
Dr. Idit Shafran Gittleman, head of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Military and Society Program, said Kochavi must ensure that those appointed to the committee act without bias and not be influenced by political pressures.
“The petition clarifies once again that the demand for gender equality does not stop at the doorstep of the IDF recruiting station, nor does the obligation for equality,” she said. “Barring women from serving in units, without even conducting feasibility studies to examine the possibility, does not comply with a commitment to foster equal opportunities in the military.”
“The state’s declaration that ‘aspects of the gender-mixed service’ will also be taken into account raises concerns that the commitment to equality will be swept aside due to political pressures,” Gittleman said. “The chief of staff must, therefore, ensure that the personnel appointed to the committee act out of a sincere desire to enable full equal opportunity in the IDF, without allowing external considerations to interfere with their professional conclusions.”
With several mixed-gender, border-defense battalions, the IDF has in recent years increased the recruitment of women to combat units. A record-breaking 1,000 women were inducted into combat units last summer.
An estimated 90% of the positions in the IDF are now open to women, including combat roles in the Navy, Home Front Command, Artillery Corps and Military Police in the West Bank. Other combat posts that have been cleared for female soldiers include operating the Spike (Tammuz) missile and the hand-launched Skylark UAV.
Six female combat recruits enlisted in the Navy for the first time last November to serve on the new Sa’ar 6 corvette missile ships. The corvettes, which are currently being built in Germany, will have a separate section for female soldiers, complete with beds, showers and toilets.
The Armored Corps is also in the midst of a second pilot program to consider allowing women to serve in tanks, and the IAF said the first female pilot to fly the F-35i Adir stealth fighter jet has completed her training.
But women are still barred from serving in infantry brigades, armored brigades, submarines and certain elite reconnaissance units, such as Sayeret Maktal and the Navy’s Shayetet 13.
In May, four teenagers, Mika Kliger, Mor Lidani, Gali Nishri and Omer Saria, petitioned the High Court to force the IDF to allow all potential recruits to try out for elite commando units, regardless of their gender.
“We’re not asking that demands be changed for us,” Lidani told Channel 12 News at the time. “Just let us try out, and if we qualify, let us join the units.”
The military has recently updated the IDF’s Joint Service Order, which regulates the interaction between troops of the opposite sex, defining appropriate attire while on base and enforcing mandatory separate sleeping quarters.
Critics of gender integration in the military say it is a dangerous social experiment with potential ramifications for national security. Requirements for female combat troops have been lowered, but women tend to suffer from stress injuries at a higher rate than men, the critics say.
Rabbis have also criticized the integration of women into combat positions.