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Israeli soldiers of the Caracal battalion carry their comrade on a stretcher during a 20-kilometer march in Israels Negev desert, near Kibbutz Sde Boker.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Storm over MK's call to hinder IDF enlistment over mixed-gender service
“The army is us, and we do not threaten ourselves,” wrote Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich was denounced in several quarters for calling on National-Religious students to skip an IDF enlistment cycle in protest of mixed-gender service in the army.

Bayit Yehudi leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett subsequently criticized Smotrich’s comments, while Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir called for his suspension from the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Writing this week in B’Sheva, Smotrich spoke out fiercely against mixed-gender IDF units, an issue of great concern for the National-Religious leadership now, and said that community needed to create “chaos and headaches” for the army to get its point across.

“If yeshivas and pre-military academies leave their students for another few months [in their institutions] in order to strengthen their Torah studies and skip one enlistment cycle, the army will ask itself what it prefers – quality, motivated fighters or mixed-gender service at [the officers training school] Bahad 1,” wrote Smotrich.

The feisty MK was roundly denounced for the comments, which included criticism from several members of his own party and its leader.

“The army is us, and we do not threaten ourselves,” Bennett wrote on Twitter. “No group, and definitely not the religious-Zionist, has the right to ‘teach the IDF’ how to behave, and for sure not to refuse or to hinder enlistment.”

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, also of Bayit Yehudi, said no one should threaten the IDF, while fellow party member MK Moti Yogev, also criticized his colleague, though he said the issue of mixed-gender units needed to be addressed.

MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid), a former IDF general, said that no conditions should be made prior to enlistment in the army and that Smotrich’s ideas reflected a post-Zionist point of view.

“We are not going to the IDF with any conditions, and we are not protecting Smotrich’s house in Kedumim with conditions,” he said.

“We are doing that out of belief in the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, even if there are tasks and events we don’t like. Calling for refusal is post-Zionism and a direct continuation of the worrying voices rising from the reckless leadership of religious-Zionism.”

Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) said, though he understood the reason Smotrich called to set a redline for the IDF, he saw it as irresponsible and unacceptable.

“There were some moves made in the field of mixed-gender service in the IDF, and we are all working to fix them. But I do not accept these remarks,” said Yogev.

“There are two main fields of irresponsibility reflecting from his ideas; the first is that we are educating for many years for total devotion to the people of Israel and that we should be responsible for one another. The second is the understanding that the State of Israel is something that is bigger than us, and we should be thankful to live in a generation in which we could take part in the IDF.”

MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) said on Twitter that the newspaper column by Smotrich exposed his true face.

“A member of the Bayit Yehudi party calls for draft refusal. These are not the rabbis, this is the leadership. He should be suspended immediately from the FADC,” she said, referring to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The chairman of that committee, MK Avi Dichter (Likud), sarcastically said Smotrich forgot one line in his column: “As we love IDF so much, we should protect and preserve it – from Smotrich.”
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