Women petition Israeli supreme court for right to serve in tank crews

Two 2020 draftees petitioned the Supreme Court, saying the IDF is violating their right to serve in the front lines.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Two women who have been refused their requested combat positions in the IDF before their March 2020 draft day have petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court Tuesday for the right to serve equally to men.

Or Abramson of Karnei Shomron and Maayan Halberstadt of Jerusalem want to serve in a tank crew in the Armored Corps.

The IDF ran a pilot program last year that trained 10 women in tanks and prepared four of them to be commanders. However, Ground Command then nixed the idea in April because “the next stage would require a significant increase in manpower and infrastructure for the realization of the process” of creating female tank units.

The tank graduates were sent to the mixed-gender Caracal infantry battalion instead.

The army offered other kinds of combat positions to the two women, according to Haaretz. Abramson was told she could have a combat assignment in the Home Front Command, while Halberstadt was offered  one in the Artillery Corps.

But the two determined recruits decided to use legal channels to demand that the IDF reconsider its decision to scrap the pilot program, calling it a violation of their equal rights to deny them tank crew positions such as driver, gunner and radio operator.

“I believe in the army,” Abramson said on IDF Radio. “I don’t understand why it doesn’t believe in me. The [combat] role should be filled by people who want to contribute and are able to. It doesn’t matter what gender they are.”

Women serving in combat and mixed-gender units has been a controversial issue in Israel for years. Religious figures have decried the “immodesty” that they say results in mixed service, insisting that the front line is not an appropriate place for women. Some army officers have claimed that although women can serve with excellence in most positions, almost none can pull their weight equally to men in combat.

The issue made headlines again last month, as Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich, who is Orthodox, told Army Radio that “serving in mixed units is service that damages the IDF’s operational capability.”

The petition names Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a defendant, along with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and the IDF and State of Israel as a whole.