Court mediates as soldier demands to be in combat

Soldier had previously suffered leukemia denied combat role by IDF because of higher health risk.

IDF soldiers arrest a Palestinian in Ramallah 370 (R) (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)
IDF soldiers arrest a Palestinian in Ramallah 370 (R)
(photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)
The High Court of Justice on Monday brokered an informal meeting as a compromise between a soldier who demanded to serve in a fighting unit and the IDF, which has denied his request.
The soldier, Yoav Danguri- Hayat, previously suffered from leukemia, but claims he has made a full recovery. The IDF said that even so, there are unpredictable and higher health risks to Danguri-Hayat in a fighting unit that could not be ignored.
Originally, the IDF denied the soldier the option of fighting in a combat unit as a matter of general policy, without looking at his individual circumstances. Such a policy could possibly have been ruled as unconstitutional, for unreasonably violating an individual’s right to be evaluated for employment purposes based on individual circumstances, and allowing across-the-board discrimination because of a prior health condition.
However, by Monday’s hearing, the IDF had already altered its rejection of his request to serve in a fighting unit, accepting in principle that someone with a health condition could serve in combat, while rejecting his specific case as being too risky.
In an emotional appeal, the soldier told the court first through his attorney and then personally that he had “dreamed his whole life” of being in a fighting unit and that he was highly motivated.
Initially, while the court said it appreciated his sentiment, the justices said they saw no way to get involved in the case.
Courts cannot be in the business of second-guessing doctors on health issues, said Justice Edna Arbel. If an IDF medical expert has declared him too risky for combat service, even if he has several counter-experts and is currently in excellent physical condition, which Danguri-Hayat said was the case, the court had to defer to the IDF.
Danguri-Hayat’s case was even more difficult, according to the court, because he had actually been given a soughtafter intelligence position in the IDF. As a result, Danguri- Hayat could not say that the IDF was refusing to let him serve in the armed forces.
Danguri-Hayat and his attorney argued that while the IDF had said it had reviewed his medical file, in reality, it had not, and certainly had not carefully analyzed his case. In particular, they noted that the IDF, in response to his petition, had demanded that he produce his medical file, though they already had it.
In response, the justices pressured the IDF to agree to allow Danguri-Hayat an informal hearing with its senior medical authority, who had vetoed his involvement in a combat unit.
Initially, the IDF agreed to the meeting in order for Danguri- Hayat to hear from its expert directly why his request was rejected, but not for a real exchange of views.
Pressured further by the court, the IDF agreed to leave the case open so that, at least in theory, Danguri-Hayat might have a chance of convincing the IDF’s medical expert to change his opinion.
The court then ruled that its decision on the petition would be postponed pending the meeting between Danguri- Hayat and the IDF medical authority.