Israeli Study: Give Combat Role to Women
( Newsvine ) An army-appointed commission has recommended letting women into the military's last all-male bastions, extending equal opportunities to front-line infantry, armored corps and special forces, media reported on Monday.
The military said the draft report by a panel of officers and academics was a tool for long term-planning meant to "maximize the abilities of the women for the overall benefit of the armed forces." It did not have details of the report's recommendations.
Israel Radio reported that the commission, set up by the head of the army's human resources department, proposed that women no longer be excluded from any unit because of their gender, and that men and women drafted for Israel's compulsory military duty should serve for the same length of time.
At present, men are usually conscripted for three years and women for two. Arabs and ultra-orthodox Jews are exempted.
Retired Gen. Yehudit Ben- Natan , who headed the now-defunct Women's Corps, said she had long championed total integration of women in the military and rejected arguments that they should be kept out of the front line because they might be hurt, taken prisoner or forced to work in uncomfortably confined spaces with men.
"The heart and soul of the army is combat, and if we are in the army, we need to be at its heart," she told the radio. "Let there be tanks with all-female crews and all-woman missile batteries, because we can do it and we must stop allocating duties by gender."
The reformers are inspired by Canada and several European nations that have integrated infantry units.
In the U.S. military, women are barred from units assigned to direct ground combat, such as the infantry, armor and artillery. Many remain in traditional jobs, such as health care, but they have also served as translators and mechanics, commanded police companies and support battalions, and flown jet fighters and attack helicopters.
More than 155,000 American women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002, according to the Pentagon. They account for 15 percent of the active duty force.
During last summer's Lebanon war, a small number of female Israeli soldiers fired artillery, served on naval vessels and flew combat sorties as pilots and weapons system operators. All told, around 1,500 women serve in combat jobs - some 2.5 percent of female conscripts, according to army figures.
Sensitive to charges of sexual harassment or misconduct, the military has made strict separation of barracks and bathrooms mandatory.
Some Orthodox Jews protest that mixing the sexes still goes in the face of religious rules on chaste behavior. Other Israelis have voiced concerns that the public would not tolerate women being killed or falling captive.