Most Women in Israeli Military Intelligence to Serve as Long as Men

Female soldiers will serve for 32 months in areas such as signals intelligence, satellite operations and cyberwar, a Knesset panel says.

Members of the Israel Defense Forces intelligence and cyberwarfare Unit 8200, in 2013.
Moti Milrod

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has unanimously approved the army’s request to extend the service of women soldiers in most Military Intelligence positions to 32 months, similar to the term for male soldiers.

This applies to around 20 types of positions such as translation, research, signals intelligence, electronic intelligence, the analyzing of aerial photography, cyberwar and satellite operations.

Service in other positions not directly under Military Intelligence will also be affected, including supervisory roles in computer systems and Military Police intelligence. Women will have to volunteer for roles lasting 32 months.

According to IDF representatives at the committee hearings, the panel’s decision will affect 8 percent of women in the Israel Defense Forces, or 1,200 women at Military Intelligence.

The women will also have to agree to do reserve duty up to age 40, and the decision will be irreversible once they finish their training.

The chief of staff’s gender affairs adviser, Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel, said the move promoted equality and the advancement of women. She said the IDF had made progress since it decided two years ago to extend the service of women to 28 months.

“Selecting these professions was done carefully in order to allow women to advance in areas where they are absent,” she said.

Also, 40 percent of positions that require selection processes at Military Intelligence will have women and men serving for the same period.

The IDF does not believe that the change will affect the number of applicants to these positions. In a survey of women about to be drafted, 61 percent slated to go into intelligence said the change strengthened their resolve to serve there, while 13 percent said their motivation was weaker.

“We believe that if female soldiers are given an effective period to serve, there will be equal opportunities in instructor roles or as officers,” said Brig. Gen. Moshe Schneid, a chief intelligence officer. “Our goal is to equalize the terms for men and women.”

But during the committee discussion, MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said the change would only affect 2.5 percent of the women serving in the military.

“It’s a joke, it’s laughable,” she said. “The army as an organization is saying that it takes only what’s convenient. Equality comes with a price tag, with an effort required. This is not just a social interest; it’s in the army’s interest as well.”