After Brouhaha Over Women in Tanks, Israeli Army Wants Women in Warships Too

Navy looking into putting women on board warships that will protect Israel's offshore natural gas rigs. The main difficulty? cramped living quarters.

File photo of soldiers in the Israeli navy.
Iris Liner, IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The Israel Defense Forces is considering opening additional combat positions to women, including possibly placing women on the Sa’ar 6 warships currently being built in Germany that are to be deployed to protect Israel’s offshore natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean.

The proposed integration of women in combat positions, including the Armored Corps and the Air Force’s search and rescue unit, has sparked opposition among some Orthodox rabbis, particularly over women serving in tank units. In remarks last week on the issue, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said the IDF was opening more combat roles to women, but added that “no one has yet put males and females [together] in tanks.”

Haaretz has learned that the Israel Navy has shown an interest in placing more women in combat positions on its ships. Women are already serving in the naval units that protect ports and ships and that provide towing services, and as naval officers. Female graduates of the naval officers’ course are not placed in the submarine fleet, however, and there is only one female officer training to command a missile boat.

A naval officer who spoke to Haaretz said the major difficulty presented by the integration of women is their living quarters. A tour of a Sa’ar 4.5 missile ship revealed that sleeping quarters consisted of very congested bunk beds that provided little privacy. Currently on ships where women are serving, the only separation that they are accorded is a curtain, the officer said, although he said he was convinced that women will serve on the Sa’ar 6 ships now under construction, as the design of the accommodations will allow separate sleeping quarters for women. Although the navy has taken a positive view of placing women on the ships, as noted no formal decision has been made by Eisenkot.

Beyond that, the purchase of the Sa’ar 6 ships is the subject of an initial policy inquiry on instructions from Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, as was reported in July. It relates to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to halt the bidding process for the purchase of the ships from suppliers in South Korea, Italy, Spain or Israel involving suppliers from other countries, and instead buying the ships from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp firm, after the German government offered to subsidize the purchase.

File Photo: Israeli naval officers are briefed aboard an Israeli corvette military vessel, docked at the Haifa port, before a drill on international waters.
Reuters