IDF officer says data on pilot program for female tank crews was altered
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IDF officer says data on pilot program for female tank crews was altered

After military announces restart of trial program, soldier tells Army Radio that performance figures he’d initially presented were changed to the detriment of servicewomen

A group of female soldiers take part in a training exercise in the tank commanders' course, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)
A group of female soldiers take part in a training exercise in the tank commanders' course, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

An officer who worked on a pilot program to determine the suitability of female recruits to serve in the tank corps said on Thursday that data on female soldiers’ performance was altered to the detriment of the women, calling into question the decision to put the process of creating all-female tank crews on hold.

Lt. Assaf Livni told Army Radio that he had “presented data on the combatants” and that “the data I provided was different from that presented at a subsequent meeting.”

Asked if he believed someone had falsified the numbers, Livni would not comment.

“I fought in a tank during Operation Protective Edge and I would have entered the same tank even if it were staffed by a female crew,” he said.

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday announced it was restarting its pilot program to allow women to serve in tanks, reversing its decision last year to freeze the trial, and would be expanding it to include actual deployments inside Israel and along the borders with Egypt and Jordan.

Head of the IDF Armored Corps Brig. Gen. Guy Hasson, center, poses on a tank with the army’s first female tank commanders, who graduated their course on June 28, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

In 2017-2018, the military conducted a trial program to assess the viability of all-female tank crews. Though officially deemed a success, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi froze the initiative, sparking significant criticism from progressive groups and multiple petitions to the High Court of Justice by women demanding that the freeze lifted.

Female soldiers currently serve as tank instructors during training but not on actual crews.

Last week, two members of the 2018 pilot program, Osnat Levy and Noga Shina, filed petitions with the High Court of Justice asking to be allowed to perform their reserve service as tank commanders, arguing that they are entitled to do so having completed the necessary training.

Responding to Livni’s statements, MK Merav Michaeli tweeted that “this was no surprise” and stated that the pilot was, in itself, “one big discrimination.”

Questioning the necessity of the trial, she noted that there are already female tankers and infantrywomen in some of the world’s “top armies” and said the pilot “treated women as if they’re alpacas, trying to see what they can or can’t manage.

Illustrative. A female tank instructor peeks out of her vehicle during an exercise on May 4, 2012. (Israel Defense Forces/Flickr)

“The IDF systematically discriminates against women and prevents them from equality of rights where they have equal obligations,” she continued. “Counterfeiting data is another means of sustaining this discrimination.”

Michaeli called on former IDF chief of staff MK Gabi Ashkenazi, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, to convene the committee and launch an inquiry into “data forgery” and the pilot itself, which she said “seriously harms IDF servicewomen.”

Ashkenazi said the IDF was investigating the matter, and he would decide how the committee would proceed once he heard the IDF’s conclusions.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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