On Monday, a former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces accused Haaretz of leading an incitement campaign against the military rabbinate, a comment that came the same day the paper reported that 19 retired major generals were calling on Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to curb the exclusion of female soldiers due to religious demands.
Gantz is expected to address the issue at Tuesday's session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
"All kinds of groups, with Haaretz at the forefront, are conducting what is almost an incitement [campaign against] the military rabbinate's influence," said the former IDF chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. (res. ) Avichai Ronsky, in a radio interview. "It creates unnecessary uproar. Religious soldiers and women get along well in the army."
The officers who sent the letter "don't know the current military reality," Ronsky told Israel Radio. "You can't ignore the fact that there are many religious commanders."
In the letter, the reserve officers indicated their appeal comes in response to a series of recent events, including a walkout by religious cadets who objected to hearing women sing at a military ceremony. The petitioners warned in their letter about harm caused to the motivation of women to serve in the army, as well as to what they termed damage to "the fundamental values of Israeli society."
Several of the signatories expanded on their views in radio interviews Monday.
"The IDF is undergoing a trend of radicalization and becoming more ultra-Orthodox," said Maj. Gen. (res. ) Ran Goren, former head of the IDF's personnel directorate. "[They're] making a statement: We're here and we'll impose our ways."
Goren told Israel Radio that women were being "increasingly excluded from military positions."
"It's a gray discrimination - in some cases commanders prefer not to accept women because it may lead to problems," he said. "All this affects the women's service, restricting it, instead of opening up more positions for women in the army."
Another signatory, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Ori Orr, put it in more black-and-white terms.
"We cannot accept discrimination against female soldiers," he told Army Radio. "I believe in a free egalitarian society, and such incidents harm the society I want to live in. The army is still a reflection of Israeli society and its spirit."
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