In a decision that could have ramifications for Israel’s armed services, the Supreme Court has ruled that the air force must open its pilot training course to women.
In a 3-2 vote, the justices approved the petition of Alice Miller, a 23-year- old officer who wants to be a combat pilot.
Miller now holds an office job in the air force.
Reserve Gen. Ran Goren, a former deputy head of the air force and former head of the Israel Defense Force manpower division, called the ruling “revolutionary.”
He told Israel Radio that it raised not only the issue of women being combat pilots, but serving in combat positions in the army’s other branches as well.
Women’s activists hailed Wednesday’s ruling as a breakthrough for women.
“We have removed a real obstacle of discrimination against women,” said Meretz Knesset member Naomi Chazan, who accompanied Miller throughout her legal battle.
For the South African-born Miller, the ruling means that she can now take the tests to see whether she qualifies for the pilot’s training course. She studied aeronautical engineering at Haifa’s Technion Institute and has a civil pilot’s license.
In their ruling, the judges called for equal treatment for all prospective candidates.
The two dissenting judges said the air force does not have the facilities to accommodate women, but the ruling will now force all the necessary accommodations to be made.
The air force had turned down Miller’s requests to enter pilot training, saying that women did not serve long enough in the military to justify the expensive investment made in pilots.
Miller said previously that it was not just the length-of-service issue to which the air force was opposed, but concern over treatment of women if they were taken prisoner.
Air Force officials said they wanted to examine the ruling, but that they would honor the court’s stipulation.
Two female justices served on the five-justice panel that reviewed the case. Both ruled in favor of Miller.