The IDF told the High Court of Justice on Monday that the integration of female soldiers into the infantry and the armored corps will be postponed indefinitely. The army was responding to a petition submitted by young women who are about to be enlisted and asked to be accepted into the special forces. The State told the court that women will continue to be integrated into the armored corps units that patrol the borders, and asked the court to reject the petition to allow the gradual progress of the integration outline as planned by the IDF.
Meanwhile, the IDF told the court that the recruitment and integration of women into Airborne Combat Rescue and Evacuation Unit 669, a helicopter search and rescue extraction unit subordinate to the Air Force, will continue in full force.
The change in the army’s attitude regarding women’s service was largely imposed on it from the outside. In 1995, the High Court of Justice ruled, in Alice Miller’s petition against the Minister of Defense, that the IDF must allow women to volunteer for pilot school, just like men. The principles of the High Court ruling were incorporated in the Security Service Act in 2000 and in the Chief of Staff’s letter in 2004. The ruling forced the army commanders to re-examine the entire policy of the placement and treatment of female soldiers and military commanders. As a result, combat positions such as naval officer, light infantry fighter, fighter in the artillery corps, anti-aircraft formation, the nuclear, chemical, and biological unit of the engineering, corps, and the military police were opened up for women. However, following a study conducted by the Medical Corps in 2000 to determine the suitability of women for combat duties, most infantry and armor positions remained closed to women.
In 2020, candidates for military service filed petitions against the IDF and then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, demanding the opportunity to enlist in all units, including the special forces, in keeping with their regular screening procedures. The IDF response last June clarified that there is no intention to allow women to be screened for combat roles in elite units, with the exception of a pilot program in two units.
The Medical Corps set a high physiological bar for women looking to join the elite units, citing the physical differences between the two sexes: the mass of muscles, bones, and fat is different (favoring men), and so is the range of steps and aerobic capacity of most men compared to most women. Since women are more prone to injuries as a result of carrying heavy weight, a physiological safety margin was established. The minimum for admission into Unit 669 is a weight of 78 kilograms (172 pounds) and a height of 1.66 meters (5.44 feet).
But the High Court, as usual, felt qualified to interfere with the decision-making process of the various branches of the military, and Justice Ruth Ronnen questioned the very idea of comparing women to men. “There is great variation between different women,” she said. “Probably most of them won’t be able to be accepted into these units, but maybe some of them will be accepted. For example, you didn’t screen men with a weight below a certain threshold and test the effect of strenuous exercise on them… It is likely that a man of low weight would also have difficulty carrying weights, but there are no such criteria for men.”
You know who is going to win this match, and you also know that by ignoring medical opinion in favor of a judicial one the IDF is sinking further into its mire of chronic unreadiness for the next all-out war because of its imposed role of an agent of social change.
At least there won’t be a minimum weight and height requirement for being buried under the rubble.