Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi named IDF’s next top lawyer, 2nd female major general

Defense minister hails her as a ‘trailblazer’; move comes as army chief plans to promote more women to leadership positions

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Brig. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, who was named the Israel Defense Forces' next military advocate general and second female major general on July 15, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Brig. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, who was named the Israel Defense Forces' next military advocate general and second female major general on July 15, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Brig. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi was named the Israel Defense Forces’ next military advocate general and the second female major general in the country’s history on Thursday.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved her nomination by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was also consulted about the appointment, Gantz’s office said.

“Tomer-Yerushalmi is first and foremost a wonderful lawyer, with experience and a rich background in all fields needed for the military advocate general. I am sure that she will carry out her work excellently, dealing with the complicated missions that are on the docket, including defending IDF soldiers, international law, and assisting the operational echelon in carrying out their work in accordance with the law,” Gantz said in a statement.

Tomer-Yerushalmi will take over for Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek, himself the first openly gay major general in the IDF.

The military in recent years has faced criticism for failing to promote women to senior positions, as noted by Kohavi earlier this year with a pledge to address the matter.

Gantz, who as IDF chief of staff promoted the first female major general, current Economy Minister Orna Barbivai, hailed Tomer-Yerushalmi as a “trailblazer,” who overhauled the legal status and legal protections for women in the military and fought sexual harassment.

“As defense minister, I am proud to name her the second woman at the rank of major general, and I am sure she won’t be the last,” Gantz said.

Tomer-Yerushalmi will receive the rank of major general immediately upon entering her position, unlike her predecessor Afek who maintained the rank of brigadier general for his first three years in the position before being promoted to major general.

When Tomer-Yerushalmi replaces him, Afek will have served as military advocate general for roughly six years, overseeing a number of high profile cases, including the conviction of Brig. Gen. Ofer Buchris for sexual offenses and the Hebron shooter (Elor Azaria) case, as well as overseeing investigations into the 2014 Gaza war and the IDF’s responses to the 2018 Gaza border riots.

Tomer-Yerushalmi currently serves as the chief of staff’s adviser on gender issues, and previously served in a number of positions in the Military Advocate General Corps and in the military judiciary.

She has dual master’s degrees in law, one from Tel Aviv University and one from the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Earlier this year, Kohavi announced plans to increase the number of female senior officers by 50% within the next five years.

Until now, Kohavi had not promoted a women to the rank of major general, and only one to the rank of brigadier general — an officer tapped to serve as the chief intelligence officer of Central Command.

According to a recent Haaretz tally, of the nearly 200 officers promoted to the rank of colonel under Kohavi, 19 have been women.

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