Shaked Committee discusses effect of haredi enlistment on female IDF soldiers

“My goal is not only to integrate women in the IDF but to protect their dignity,” Livnat says.

Limor Livnat 311 R (photo credit: Reuters)
Limor Livnat 311 R
(photo credit: Reuters)
Female soldiers have already been harmed by haredi enlistment, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat warned on Wednesday.
Livnat, chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee on the Status of Women, took part in a meeting of the Shaked Committee on haredi enlistment, on how the policy will affect women in the IDF. The meeting focused on article 26a of the bill, which states that the IDF must “defend the dignity, integration and status of women.”
“Unfortunately, people seem to have the impression that this is a battle of Amazonians versus macho men,” Livnat quipped.
The minister recounted that she demanded to be on the ministerial committee that drafted the legislation on haredi enlistment to make sure it would be sensitive to women in the military.
“My goal is not only to integrate women in the IDF but to protect their dignity,” Livnat stated. “We already see more than a slight decline in women’s status in the IDF, even before significant numbers of haredim enlisted.”
Livnat demanded that an article be added to the bill allowing women to increase their mandatory service time, by request, in order to be able to fulfill more roles in the military. At the same time, she did not think they should be required to serve the same amount of time as men, as long as hesder yeshiva students [who combine yeshiva studies with military service] do not have to do so.
Committee chairwoman Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) said there is no doubt that women’s rights are important, but the argument is about whether they should be part of the haredi enlistment bill.
MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), former head of manpower in the IDF, said he thinks that there should be fewer laws controlling military officers, and suggested that the words “dignity” and “status” be taken out of the bill.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said that in haredi society, women are respected more than men.
“We have no problem with the bill having an article requiring that women’s dignity be protected, as long as haredim’s dignity is preserved as well,” Gafni said, reasoning that “if such an article is authorized [without including haredi dignity], it could mean that a woman will go to the High Court to complain she could not serve at a base with haredim and the court will require she be allowed on the base because the law says only her dignity is protected.”
MK Michal Biran (Labor) took issue with the concept of women-free military bases.
“I refuse to accept that people will look at me or at any other person like he or she is a disease,” Biran said. “Just as women can’t be thrown out of Knesset committee meetings because there are haredim in the room, women can’t be pushed out of IDF bases.”
If the government is trying to convince thousands of haredim to enlist, they have to accept their lifestyle and the fact that many of them don’t want women around, UTJ MK Meir Porush told the committee.
“If you want to change our lifestyle, say it outright in the bill,” Porush challenged the MKs.
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) said that he agrees there should be an article in the bill protecting women’s rights in the IDF, but suggested that it be based on the idea of total equality, including in placement and moving up the ranks.
“It’s clear that there will be difficulties, but haredi enlistment cannot come at the expense of female soldiers and officers in the IDF. We cannot compromise on that,” Bar-Lev said.
“IDF commanders’ good sense needs to try to prevent a conflict [between haredim and women],” Shaked said.
“When soldiers want to leave a ceremony because women are singing, a commander should let them do so quietly.”
At the end of the meeting, Shaked told the MKs they will be able to vote on one of three versions of the article: The original text, one without the word “dignity,” and one that also mentions haredi soldiers’ dignity.