IDF Evaluating Inclusion of Women in Tank Corps

Inspired by the American and Canadian armies, which have opened all positions to women, the IDF is also considering female participation in the engineering corps and rescue unit.

Gili Cohen
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Women soldiers are increasingly being incorporated into IDF combat units.Credit: Michal Fattal
Gili Cohen

The possibility of drafting women into the tank corps is being evaluated by the Israel Defense Forces, a senior officer from the army's manpower directorate said on Wednesday.

Several alternative ways of including women combat soldiers in the corps are being evaluated, the officer said, among them inclusion of women as full tank crew members. Another option is for the women soldiers to undertake field security tasks within the tank corps.

"There are those who think that it's not possible, but my impression is that the chief of staff is serious about it (evaluating the possibility,)" the officer said. "It happens all over the world and it can happen here, too."

The army is also considering drafting women into the engineering corps, as operators of heavy equipment, and into the elite, airborne rescue unit, known as Unit 669.

The countries in which women serve in tank crews include Norway, Canada and Australia. Britain also decided recently to open up its armored and infantry divisions to women, after concluding that they were capable of meeting the physical requirements.

That decision was inspired by developments in the armies of Canada and the United States, both of which have opened all military posts to women. The first female tank crew member was recently approved in the U.S.

The IDF also intends asking the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee to extend the service of women to two-years-and-four-months, from the current two years, the officer said.  

That proposal was rejected in 2014 by a committee looking into the reform of the draft, though it gave the defense minister leave to raise it again on condition the IDF could explain how it intended to equalize the conditions and screening procedures of male and female soldiers.

According to a plan drawn up by the IDF manpower directorate, the army will first ask the Knesset to extend the service of women to 28 months. If plans to reduce male service to 30 months are approved, the army will then request that the service of both males and females be equalized at two-and-a-half years.

As previously published in Haaretz, one of the options being evaluated by the army is lengthening the service of soldiers who combine military service with religious studies from the current 17 months.

The possibility of that option being implemented is low, the officer said, but "it's the right thing to do," given that Nahal service (which combines military service and agricultural work) was lengthened by two months.