Female soldier, Lotem Stapleton, a physical education officer, demonstrates a move during a training session in Krav Maga, an Israeli self-defense technique, at a military base in the Golan Heights March 1, 2017..
(photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)
While there are more and more women being integrated into the IDF, women will not serve on the frontlines while he is the head of Israel's military, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot stressed Monday.
"There is integration (of women), but it needs to be to a certain extent," Eisenkot stated during a security briefing to government ministers, stressing that at the moment he doesn’t see the integration of women into infantry brigades such as Golani, Givati, Paratroopers or Nahal.
"People tried to accuse me of feminism, but I'm not a chauvinist or a feminist,” he stated, adding that the comments made by some on co-ed service come from “ignorance and agendas promoted by interest groups."
In recent months several rabbis have criticized women serving in the IDF, including Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu calling for the dismissal of Eisenkot as Chief of Staff and warning that there was a “war brewing” over the issue.
Eisenkot stated that the IDF has only one agenda and that is to be strong and victorious in times of war. As such, he stated, the IDF will continue to offer combat positions to women.
According to IDF figures, 38 percent of female recruits have asked to be evaluated for combat service but despite the push for more female combat soldiers combat units remain overwhelmingly male.
An estimated 90% of the positions in the IDF are also now open to women, including combat roles in the Navy, Home Front Command, Artillery Corps and Military Police in the West Bank. Other combat posts that have been cleared for female soldiers include operating the Spike (Tammuz) missile and the hand-launched Skylark UAV.
Despite that, women still account for less than 10% of combat troops. Nonetheless, there has still been an increase from 3% four years ago, when the number of female combat soldiers stood at around 500, to over 2,100 in 2015, and the army expects that number to rise to 9.5% by next year.
In December, 13 female soldiers became the first to complete combat training to become tank operators and were sent to Israel’s southern border for a trial deployment. They will serve in the recently-formed Border Defense Force in female-only tank crews and will not be part of battalions which would operate in enemy territory such as the Armored Corps’ combat brigades
In the infantry, there has also been an increase of female combat soldiers in the co-ed Caracal and Lions of Jordan battalions assigned to guard the borders with Egypt and Jordan. In 2014, Lt.-Colonel Oshrat Bacher, a member of Caracal, became the first woman in Israel to command a combat brigade.
And as the percentage of women serving in combat roles has risen, the percentage of women in clerical positions has dropped significantly. One out of every four women in the army served in clerical roles in 1998, 21.4% in 2001, 13.4% in 2012, but only 7% in 2016, matching the percentage of women serving in combat roles.