December 28, 1998 (by Lieven Dewitte) - For the first time in many years, a woman will complete the Israel Air Force's pilot course later this week and be assigned to an F-16 squadron.
The head of IAF personnel, Brig. Gen. Gil Regev, told the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women yesterday that one other female soldier had made it through the preliminary stages of the course and is now in basic flight training.
But Regev conceded that "the air force cannot cope with large numbers of female soldiers." Regev's comment angered some committee members, who asked that women soldiers undergo the same selection process as men.
Only women who volunteer are considered for the course, while men are recruited from the entire group of enlistees. Committee chair, Naomi Chazan (Meretz), said "the committee is skeptical about the IAF's plan to help the effort to successfully integrate female soldiers in the pilot's course. " She warned that the committee would again appeal to the High Court of Justice if the IAF did not comply with an earlier court ruling on female pilot candidates.
Regev said "it is impossible to force the IAF to do something it finds unacceptable. There are doubts about this experiment and this should not be concealed. . . Do you know what it takes to fly an F-16?. . . Committee members can be involved, but not interfere.