Barak and Gantz 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Harmoni)
It might be one of the more controversial topics in the IDF today, but that did
not stop Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny
Gantz from cracking a joke on Tuesday about the service of female soldiers in
the IDF. Gantz later apologized for the remarks.
Gantz and Barak were on the Golan Heights to visit an exercise
of the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion.
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At one point, Barak turned to
Gantz and asked, “What are these female soldiers doing here? Where are they
from?” “They are here to sing. They sing during their break,” Gantz replied with
OC Golani Brigade Col. Ofek Buhris said, “It’s not a problem
if they sing. It’s fine.”
Barak said, “I have Dana here with me from my
media office. She’s from a moshav, she can sing and she is not in
“As long as she’s not in uniform but wearing clothes it’s
okay,” Buhris said.
Gantz then noticed that the media were recording the
conversation. He immediately asked the reporters to erase the joke from
their tape recorders and video cameras and not to pass it on to their news
“Even if this is the scoop of your life, you will not air this.
It will remain in your recorder,” Gantz told the Army Radio reporter at the
He then turned to Nir Dvori, Channel 2’s military reporter, and
said kiddingly: “You too... Otherwise this will be your last story. That
would be a pity. Don’t let this be your last story.”
The joke came
as a debate is raging in the IDF over “Shirat Nashim” – Hebrew for women singing
– and whether religious soldiers can be compelled to attend ceremonies that
feature female singers.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai
released a statement in defense of Gantz and said the remarks were made in jest
and should not be interpreted differently. “We regret the way the comments were
interpreted and it is important to put them into the correct
Gantz's bureau later issued its own apology. "The
chief of General Staff would like to clarify that his remarks made during a
visit to see an exercise in the North were made in jest and have been
misinterpreted as is evidenced by his beliefs and actions to promote
women in the IDF," a statement from Gantz's office read.
"The chief of General Staff apologizes to anyone who was offended by his remarks," the statement added.
Meretz faction chairman Ilan Gilon said later that “Barak
and Gantz are setting the IDF back years.”
“Instead of fighting against
the unstable situation of female soldiers, the chief of staff and the defense
minister chose to make sexist jokes,” Gilon said.
“Gantz must wake up and
realize he is the head of everyone’s army, including female soldiers.”
September, four cadets at the Bahd 1 Officer Training School were dismissed
after they walked out of a ceremony when a mixed band took to the stage, and
then refused to return. Two of the four were recently allowed to return to the
Lahav Harkov and JPost.com staff contributed to this report.