Opinion

Women in the Israeli Military Just Aren't Cut Out for Combat Roles

The Israeli army is deluding itself and risking the well-being of its soldiers by pretending men and women have equal strength

Members of the mixed-gender Caracal Battalion preparing for a training exercise. The battalion is permanently deployed on the Egyptian border.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Many young men and women in Israel want to serve in a variety of posts and functions during their military service, but find that the army isnt keen. Youngsters with impaired vision cannot fulfill the dream of entering flight training, those whose physical profile isnt high enough cannot be infantry combatants, etc. Equality, which everyone in the army has been touting in recent years, doesnt exist as far as theyre concerned. If youre wearing glasses, you probably wont be able to be a pilot. And yet, the requirement that a soldier be physically suitable for a military position disappears as soon as it comes to enlisting women in combat units. In this case the army argues for equality, although there isnt really physical equality between men and women.

In a recent interview, the armys Ground Forces Command chief, Maj. Gen. Kobi Barak, said that in the worst-case scenario female tank crew members will have difficulty loading shells. Why is the army pushing them into a post that isnt physically suitable for them? How is the bespectacled, motivated male soldier who wants to get into flight training different from the young woman who wants to serve in infantry, even though shell have trouble dragging an FN MAG machine gun?

Contributing to the state must mean serving in places in which soldiers can do their best, and not insisting on fulfilling tasks which our physical strength doesnt enable us to perform optimally. We must put the good of the Israel Defense Forces and carrying out the mission with minimum casualties first, before our desires and dreams.

The IDF was meant for us to serve its needs, not for it to serve our wishes. The IDF isnt a summer camp to make dreams come true, but Israels defense wall. We must not forget that.

In battle the bespectacled pilot wont have the extra fraction of a second it takes him to identify the attack target. Nor will he have time in battle to load the shell more slowly, or storm the enemy at a walking pace with the heavy MAG. There are enough jobs in which everyone — men and women — can contribute, each according to his ability and qualifications. Theres no inequality or indignity in that, nor an infringement on self-realization.

I am struck by the way both women and medical personnel turn a blind eye to the physiological differences between men and women, which are inevitably reflected in performance differences and can be detrimental to all – first and foremost to the young women who will pay the price when they are unsuitable for a task.We must not allow equality to come before preparedness and the ability to perform. Real, fundamental equality will not be achieved by granting special allowances, but by placing every man and woman in a position in which they can put their skills to the best possible use..There is no shame in recognizing mens physical advantage in combat roles.

We must stop the IDFs self-delusion and deception before it exacts a high price.

The writer is a social activist and a member of the IDF Fortitude Forum.