The Jerusalem Post reports that an IDF commission has ruled that women should not be prevented from joining any combat units, including combat units such as front-line infantry and commandos. This commission is assisting the IDF with long term planning and has made this recommendation along with suggestions that women’s service in the IDF be extended to match men’s (from two to three years) and that gender should no longer play any role in assigning roles in the military.
Currently, about 1500 women serve in combat roles, which represents a little better than one out of every 50 conscripted women in the IDF. Clearly, some women feel this isn’t enough:
Retired general Yehudit Ben-Natan, who headed the now-defunct Women’s Corps, said she had long championed total integration of women in the military and rejected arguments that women should be kept out of the front line because they might be hurt, taken prisoner or forced to work in uncomfortably confined spaces with men.
“The heart and soul of the IDF is combat and if we are in the army we need to be at its heart,” she told the radio. “Let there be tanks with all-female crews and all-woman missile batteries, because we can do it and we must stop allocating duties by gender.”
Not only career military women agree, the article points out that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of women being permitted to join the Israeli Air Force’s pilot program and that subsequently, one of the combat pilots in the IAF reserves is a mother who gave birth 5 months ago.
The commission which has made the current recommendation does not have the power to implement it, from what I understood from the article, but will have an influence on IDF human resources decisions.
I suspect, by the way, that the committee’s reasoning may not be entirely due to the unspoken implication that women are men’s equals in every way, but also due to declining percentages of conscripts to the IDF as Israel’s Haredi communities grow exponentially. As we well know, these communities have been given a virtually permanent pass, thanks to the Tal law, not to serve in the IDF. If you have a manpower shortfall because of religious reasons, why not tap that pool of secular or non-observant Jewish women as replacements?
Maybe that is a little cynical, but the timing is suspicious considering that the IDF marked a small drop-off in conscription numbers recently while the newspapers have been filled with articles about Israel’s demographic timebomb as non-Zionist Haredi and Arab babies tend to represent about 40% of the babies in the, uh, baby pipeline of a decade hence.
I suspect that many women wish this commission would go away and leave them alone. Two years of service were enough, but now three will be expected. Instead of working a cushy desk job or training some tank grunts, they will now be expected to be the grunts…and on the front lines yet. Most sane people would disagree with the notion that fighting wars is fun or desirable. I’ll bet most Israeli women are rolling their eyes in disgust and wishing the feminist equality train would stop at equality in the government, workplace and marketplace but long before it reaches the military equality station. This is reasonable, since it could easily be argued that some of the sanest people in Israel are the non-IDF-serving ultra-Orthodox who get others to use up years of their lives to fight on their behalf. I wonder if a whole bunch of Israeli women are going to be finding religion soon.