Barak and Gantz Caught Joking About Women Soldiers

Gantz told the Army Radio reporter to shelve the recording, and threatened the Channel 2 reporter that if the footage aired it would be his last piece.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered reporters not to publish remarks they made about female soldiers during a visit to an army drill in Israel's North on Tuesday.

The comments were made during a Golani Brigade drill, when, seemingly unaware that there were cameras in the vicinity, Barak and Gantz, along with Golani Brigade commander Ofek Buchris, cracked jokes about women serving in the army and singing.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, left, and IDF chief Benny Ganz during a tour of northern Israel on Tuesday, December 6, 2011. Credit: Courtesy Ministry of Defense

After Gantz noticed reporters from Army Radio and Channel 2, he turned to them and asked them not to report the conversation. Gantz told the Army Radio reporter to shelve the recording, and threatened the Channel 2 reporter that if the footage aired it would be his last piece.

In the video released by the media Barak asks Gantz whether there are any female soldiers present. The Chief of Staff replies: "They are on a break, singing...During the break they start to sing."

Golani commander Buchris, a religious officer, then said that "there is no problem with them singing, solo; everything will be fine." Barak then said, "there's Dana from the minister's communication [team]. She's from a moshav, she can sing without uniform," to which Buchris replied: "As long as she's without uniform but with clothes that's fine." The three then laughed.

At that point Gantz turned to an Army Radio reporter and said: "Army Radio, this does not come out. Even it's the scoop of your lifetime. It's stays in your tape recorder." He then told a Channel 2 reporter, in a joking tone, that if he airs the tape "it will be the last piece. It would be a shame if would be the last piece. Like the last war. I promise you it would be the last piece."

In September, religious cadets walked out of a military ceremony because female soldiers were singing, prompting charges that women are being increasingly marginalized in the army.

The reports of the exchange between Barak, Gantz and Buchris sparked strong condemnations. MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima ) said that "their conversation reveals their true opinions concerning the sensitive issue of women in the IDF. Their remarks prove that the Chief of Staff's deafening silence concerning the exclusion of women in the IDF wasn't accidental."

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz ) insisted that "it's regretful that the Chief of Staff prefer sexist jokes to struggling to ensure true equality for women serving in the IDF.

MK Yaakov Katz (National Union ) said that "the Torah truly respects women, as opposed to those who speak haughtily against women's exclusion but really despise women."

Initially the IDF spokesperson responded that "the remarks were humorous, in an open conversation, no more than that. We regret the way the remarks were interpreted. They were referring to the fact that the subject was dealt with too much. One shouldn't lose proportions concerning these remarks."

Later, the IDF spokesperson issued a second reaction. "The Chief of Staff wishes to clarify that the remarks made during the drill in the north were of a humorous nature, and the interpretations of these remarks contradict the Chief of Staff's concepts and actions to promote women in the IDF. The Chief of Staff wishes to apologize to whoever might have been offended by his remarks."

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