Only 47 percent of female soldiers who suffered sexual harassment in the IDF reported it to the Military Police for investigation, according to data presented yesterday morning to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The Knesset body held a special meeting yesterday on preventing sexual harassment.

The data also showed that in 2009, 445 cases of sexual harassment were reported in the IDF, most in bases, compared to 363 complaints in 2008 and 318 a year earlier. Most of the complaints were about physical harassment, 28 percent were about verbal harassment, 13 percent reported peeping and three percent reported rape.

"We expect that the IDF will become one of the important models which will impact on other work places," said former Defense Minister MK Amir Peretz.

Peretz continued, saying "One of the main issues about sexual harassment is that the woman needs to decide to report it. That is where the main crisis occurs. We must work carefully to develop more tools that enable handling the issue without the woman having to be at the forefront of a struggle. The State of Israel has made progress in recent years on the matter, but in protecting women I think we have a lot more to do."

Committee chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi said that it is necessary to also deal with the social aspects of life in the IDF, not only the professional, military elements. "We have already learned that it is no less important to ask the IDF about social issues, like sexual harassment and suicides, than, for example, intelligence. They are a significant portion of life in that organization, which is under our parliamentary supervision," he said.

MK Tzipi Hotovely, who heads the Committee on the Status of Women, said that "perhaps it is necessary to sharpen the senses of the IDF. Even when there is a series of complainants against a certain officer, it is necessary to consider how we deal with the phenomenon and how we retain awareness. Unfortunately, sexual harassment has not disappeared and there are men who allow themselves [certain liberties]".

Hotovely suggested considering an alternative, softer approach, one that would allow bypassing the psychological obstacles faced by women filing complaints.

A workshop was also held yesterday in the Knesset on various aspects of sexual harassment in the workplace and military settings.

Among those participating were Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

During the workshop the participants were presented with a series of scenarios of sexual harassment and learned how to respond to them.

"I am here so that I can relay the message to my ministry and the law enforcement community, which deal with this issue on a daily basis," Aharonovitch said.

The public security minister said there is a rise in the number of reported cases of sexual harassment, which he said is a development that shows "that there is greater awareness and less hesitation about filing complaints."