IDF, State to Supreme Court: Petition of women in tanks 'irrelevant'

State attorneys have argued that the military's decision to continue the pilot program renders the Supreme Court's intervention irrelevant.

History is made with first four female tank commanders in IDF history (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
History is made with first four female tank commanders in IDF history
The IDF and the government have called on the High Court of Justice to dismiss two petitions calling for women to be allowed to serve in the Armored Corps, arguing that the military’s plan to continue the pilot program has made the requests irrelevant.
In a 22-page letter filed on Monday, the state said that the court does not need to intervene in the case since the military is already addressing the issue.
“This chief of staff’s decision was made on January 5, 2020, in a professional context, while weighing all the relevant considerations, including security aspects – the IDF’s ability to fulfill its operational tasks for the protection of the state and its citizens, equality of the sexes, and the physiological and medical aspects which must be addressed,” the state argued.
“After a thorough examination of the insights gained, the Chief of Staff decided to advance to the next stage in examining women in tanks for Border Protection Missions, as part of a comprehensive path that will open during the current year to several dozen recruits who will meet the criteria that will be set, including significant periods of training and operational experience,” it continued.
At the end of the training and operational deployments, another assessment will be made and decisions will be taken whether or not to continue “based on the accumulated experience,” the response said.
“The IDF sees great importance in taking full advantage of the human capital provided by the female recruits in its ranks.”
The military announced in June 2018 that it had successfully completed a pilot program to train women on tanks. Two-thirds of the women who started the program finished, including four who became tank commanders. But in April 2019, the military announced that despite the successful pilot program, women would not be able to serve in the Armored Corps.
In early January, two of the women who completed the pilot, Osnat Levi and Noga Shina, along with Afik Shema – one of the officers who accompanied their training – filed a petition against the decision to bar women from the armored corps.
In September, 19-year-old Or Abramson from the West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron and Maayan Halberstadt of Jerusalem also 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 front-line combat positions, claims that the army’s refusal to let them serve in tanks is a substantial violation of equal rights.
As part of the response, Abramson and Halbershtat will be able to postpone their draft date from March 2020 until the new trial is opened in the summer or fall. The women who completed the earlier pilot program, especially the four who completed the tank commanders course, will be invited to take part in the new pilot and also serve in a reserve capacity.
According to the military, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, along with officers from general staff and other senior Armored Corps officers, have held extensive discussions examining the integration of women into tanks to be deployed along the borders. The discussions included a thorough clarification of the achievements and results of the pilot, as well as insights and analysis of medical data from women in combat roles in other corps in the military.
Following the discussions, Kochavi decided that while the pilot showed the real potential for women in the armored corps, there were also several gaps, including the difficulty of loading shells.
In the next stage of the pilot program, which will be at least twice the size of the previous one, the military will increase the height and weight requirements of women who want to take part in the program, and expand the time that women will be deployed to carry out operational missions along the borders with Egypt and Jordan.
IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman said that the results of the program are expected in a year and a half.
“We’ve done a lot about integrating women into the army, but there’s still a long way to go,” Zilberman said. “In every place that women can be integrated and can succeed, they will be.”