The Israel Defense Forces is disbanding the Herev Battalion for Druze soldiers after 41 years, because young Druze want to serve in regular field units rather than be segregated, a senior officer said on Monday.
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“The young Druze have been clearly and unequivocally indicating over the past few years that they want to integrate into the larger IDF and not be in a battalion of their own,” the senior officer told reporters. Often, the army was assigning them there against their will. According to army data, while only five percent of Druze inductees indicated a preference for the Herev Battalion, 19 percent were assigned to it.
The army had begun to reconsider the future of the battalion four years ago, after it realized most Druze preferred to serve in regular elite units, but at the time decided not to dismantle it. However, after consulting with leaders of the Druze community, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot decided it was time to shut down the segregated battalion.
Starting in July, no soldiers will be assigned to the Herev Battalion. Two months afterward, when the battalion finishes its operational mission on the northern border, it will be disbanded. The battalion’s infantry platoons are expected to be reassigned “as is” to other combat battalions. Some 1,500 standing army officers and NCOs will also be reassigned to other units.
“This is a decision that strengthens the IDF; it will lead to integration [of the Druze] in other contexts. This way, in a few years the Druze will be integrated throughout the army, more people will become familiar with the Druze and we will see them in other positions in the military,” the senior officer said.