Israeli MKs to Vote on Extension of Military Service for Women

IDF says extending women’s service from 24 months to 28 will raise number of female combatants by 1,200.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Extending compulsory military service for Israeli women, from 24 months to 28 months, would increase by 1,200 the number of women serving in combat units, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.

The army recently presented to the Knesset its analysis of the proposed changes to the length of compulsory service, which would also shorten compulsory service for men, from 36 months to 32 months. The IDF said reducing men’s service time would “create a significant personnel shortage in combat and technical divisions,” while lengthening women’s period of service would “foster equality and reduce the differences between men and women.”

The IDF’s personnel directorate said the plans would increase the proportion of women in compulsory service to 40 percent, compared to just 34 percent in 2012.

The Special Knesset Committee for the Equal Sharing of the Burden Bill, which is chaired by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), is expected to vote on the controversial proposal this week.

According to the IDF, extending service for women would increase the number of officers in the army, as well as the number of personnel assigned to IDF warning systems. It would result in 450 more junior female field officers and in the assignment of an additional 400 or so female soldiers to these warning-system units.

At the same time, IDF analysts say, reducing the term of service for men would not significantly decrease personnel numbers in these units.

But that’s not the case, they say, for a number of other units. Technology units would lose roughly 1,500 male soldiers to early release, while gaining only 600 more female soldiers. The number of army drivers would also decline, as around 550 men in these positions would be discharged and only 150 additional women being assigned.

Reducing the length of service for men would cause personnel shortages for around a dozen combat battalions, though the 1,200 additional women in these units would help make up the difference. The number of male combat soldiers would decline by about 2,500.

The personnel directorate hopes to solve the problem by having some soldiers sign on for an additional four months. Squad commanders and soldiers who complete training in special forces units such as Egoz and Maglan would be required to sign on for four more months. During that period, they would receive a pay hike bringing their salaries up to those of career soldiers.

It won’t be a matter of entire companies of soldiers being required to sign, a senior officer said, adding that the compensation for the few soldiers who do will be progressive.

The army plans to solve personnel shortages in other units in a similar fashion, though some IDF officials say that it’s hard enough as it is to fill many positions in various units.

Meanwhile, Col. (res.) Pnina Sharvit Baruch published an article on the website of the Institute of National Security Studies in which she described the anticipated effects of the plan to extend compulsory service for women and summarized the arguments against the proposal.

Sharvit Baruch, who served as head of the IDF’s international law department, believes that both plans, to extend compulsory service for women and reduce it for women, should be implemented, in order to “reduce the difference between men and women serving in the IDF.”

She also wrote, however, that concerns that extending the service for women is unfair must be addressed, and called on the IDF to formulate plan to create true equal opportunities for men and women, which would be expressed in drafting women, as well as opening various positions to women, as well as salary.

Sharvit Baruch also wrote about the issue of drafting religious women, and argued that “legislators should rethink the exemption for religious women, as well as the archaic exemption for married women.”

The previous Knesset founded a joint committee to examine these issues, but the Knesset has not yet made any real progress or any significant changes to draft regulations for religious women. According to IDF figures, 35.9 percent of women who are required to serve received exemptions for religious reasons.

A swearing-in ceremony for Jacqui, a female lone soldier, and her unit last month.Credit: Emil Salman

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