Army Co-ed Crisis: Israeli Lawmaker Calls on Religious Youths to Dodge Draft

'The army will ask itself what's preferable - quality, motivated fighters or unisex bathrooms,' Bezalel Smotrich writes in Zionist ultra-Orthodox publication.

Female soldiers conclude their officers training course in Bahad 1.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The crisis surrounding co-ed military service has already generated harsh statements from representatives of the national religious Zionist camp, but MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) reached new heights on Thursday when he called on religious youths to dodge draft. This, in order "to restore the army to sanity."

A few weeks ago, the head of a West Bank pre-military program spoke out against military service for Orthodox girls. In a lecture to young male students, Rabbi Yigal Levinstein said: “They’re driving our girls crazy. They draft them. They go in Jewish and they’re not Jewish when they come out; not in terms of genetics Agreeing to this is forbidden.”

The IDF Manpower Directorate reported a few months ago that in 2015, 2,159 Orthodox women were drafted into the army and that their number is growing by 10 percent a year.

Smotrich, who also serves as the deputy Knesset speaker, outlined his solution to the ongoing crisis in an article in the Zionist ultra-Orthodox publication Besheva, headlined "Saving the IDF – by not enlisting."

According to him, "the IDF needs quiet and manpower. If it will understand that in opposition to the terror it will face from gender groups and their supporters, we too know how to make a mess and give it a headache – a different equation will be created.

"Even more so, if the yeshivas and pre-army academies keep their students a few more months to strengthen Torah studies, and skip one draft, the army will ask itself what's preferable – quality, motivated fighters or unisex bathrooms in Bahad 1," he said, referring to the IDF officers' school.

Smotrich's remarks, calling on these youths "to skip one draft," were condemned by his party leader Naftali Bennett.

Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett condemned his colleagues remarks. "The army is us, and we don’t threaten ourselves. No group, and certainly not religious Zionism, has the right 'to teach the IDF' how to act, and certainly not to refuse or postponse conscription."

This wasn’t the first time Bennett disavowed Smotrich's remarks. He also did so after Smotrich said following the killing of the Dawabshe family in Duma that "price-tag isn’t terror," and after his party colleague lauded separation between Jewish and Arab women in maternity wards.