IDF soldiers stand atop a tank near the border with Gaza. [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s a battle of the sexes, and the Israeli army is standing by its decision to examine the possibility of a future Armored Corps with women included.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz wrote on Facebook to praise the IDF’s female fighters: “IDF is the people’s army and women are part of the people. Literally.”
Almoz lauded those women who want to contribute, and the qualities of motivation and ambition such women have in desiring to give their all for Israel’s security.
He noted that one of the most sought after roles for women in recent years is that of instructor in the Armored Corps, something he said women are already doing with “great success.”
To clarify the army’s current assessment of the integration of women into combat units within the Armored Corps, Almoz said that only when the trial period is over would it be possible to discuss the issue.
“Before adopting a position, one should always find out the facts,” he said.
The statement followed recent public comments made on the ongoing assessment and its possible outcome.
In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday morning, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu said that the army is behaving complacently, and compared the current situation a time before the Yom Kippur War.
“It is the duty of an army to fight and to be victorious,” he said. “Twice already we paid a heavy price for the complacency and arrogance of our commanders. We suffered severely in the Yom Kippur War. Our students will not serve in tanks together with girls. Period.”
In response to Eliyahu, Almoz told Army Radio, “These protests never help, and here too they won’t help. Note the fact that there were protests a few months ago about beards and about other issues. By saying ‘God forbid it cannot happen,’ does not mean that it won’t happen.”
Over the weekend, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal, a former ground forces commander and current director of the Israel Electric Corporation, said in an interview with religious radio station Kipa, that integrating women to the Armored Corps would do nothing for gender equality, but instead would only serve to endanger women’s lives.
“It would be wrong to extend the scope of women’s service in combat roles in the Armored Corps and Infantry,” he said.
“Any different decision, if adopted, would undermine, in a very dangerous way, the delicate and sensitive balance in an already volatile area of the IDF and would fundamentally alter the status quo.”
Integrating women into the Armored Corps is a “scandal that will harm everything you can even think of, including the IDF’s abilities to fight,” Ron-Tal said. “Putting men and women together in a tank is colossally crazy. I don’t have a more subtle expression.”
Several members of the Knesset were quick to denounce his comments, for which he later apologized on Facebook.
“I may be vehemently opposed (to women serving in tanks),” he wrote.
“But I apologize from the bottom of my heart if it was understood from my words that left-wing organizations are behind the move out of the intention to weaken the IDF’s power.”
But Ron-Tal wasn’t the only former general to come out against the initiative.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Kahalani told Kipa radio, “A woman’s job is to be a mother and bring children into the world, and I think that, after enduring the trauma of war, she’ll be completely different. A mother’s instinct, a mother’s embrace, that ability to bear children and breastfeed – it wouldn’t be the same. I have no doubt about that.”
While he expressed thinking it good to integrate women into more army roles, combat was not one of them. “Anything that requires pulling the trigger and killing a man is the kind of thing men do. What can you do about it?” “I think it’s a mistake. I also think it won’t happen. There are enough men to do this job.”
Former IDF chief rabbi Yisrael Weiss also commented: “If we put two people into a closed box, there’s no way something won’t happen. We can’t put a couple, a man and a woman, a male soldier and a female soldier, into a closed box for a week and expect that nothing will happen. You’ll get a little tank soldier in another nine months.”