Proposal to Lengthen Women's Army Service Is Postponed Until 2016

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The controversial plan to extend women’s army service will be postponed for two years, according to a compromise reached between the army and the Knesset committee in charge of formulating the new draft law.

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The original wording of the bill, on which the Knesset is to vote later this month, called for women’s service to be extended by four months so as to provide the army with sufficient personnel after men’s service was recently reduced by four months. But members of the committee, headed by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), opposed lengthening women’s service. Women currently serve two years in the army, whereas men now serve 32 months, instead of the three years they were required to do until recently.

The new law will state that women’s service will be extended for four months, but not before July 1, 2016, and then only on condition that the defense minister presents the matter to the cabinet for approval, according to the understandings reached between committee member Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) and representatives of the Israel Defense Forces and the Defense Ministry.

In practical terms, this means that over the next two years, under certain circumstances, it will not be necessary to extend women’s service. These circumstances include reduction of units outside the army’s regular array of forces, such as soldier-teacher units or soldiers serving in the Israel Prison Service, which is in the purview of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Another circumstance that would obviate the need to extend women’s service is if soldiers doing essential jobs are paid a regular salary for serving short periods in the career army. Legislation enacted over the next two years that would increase the number of women serving in the army, for example by drafting women who fraudulently claim exemptions due to religious observance, could also make it unnecessary to lengthen women’s service.

Women soldiers in the IDF.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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