Opinion |

Religious Zionists vs. Women in Israeli Army

Upholding women’s presence in IDF is the best way to halt the religious Zionist takeover of the army, and of Israel.

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
Soldiers pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Soldiers pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

There’s no better way to phrase the burning political question encapsulated in the debate over the integration of female combatants in the Armored Corps than the recent headline on the Kipa website: “IDF must decide who it wants in tanks: religious Zionists or female combatants.”

Anyone who questions the power wielded by religious Zionism should read Israel Harel’s piece in Thursday's Haaretz in Hebrew, “The secret to Netanyahu’s survival,” in which he explains with chilling simplicity how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and the “national camp” as a whole, relies upon “the unique power of religious Zionism.” Harel’s message to Netanyahu was as clearly conveyed as if the prime minister had woken up to find a horse’s head in his bed: If he wants to stay in power, “he will have to follow, even more so than he has done up to now, in the path of religious Zionism. Amona and what it symbolizes are just one of the paths.”

Maintaining women’s presence in the IDF is the best way to halt the religious Zionist takeover of the army, and of Israel. In a place where there is equality between the sexes, freedom of movement for religious Zionist soldiers is limited. A paper by the Israel Democracy Institute that was quoted in the Kipa article said it was religious soldiers and their rabbis who are preventing the implementation of the Segev Committee’s recommendations for creating equal opportunities for men and women in the IDF. They are exploiting both the crisis of motivation among secular draftees and the rise in motivation among national religious soldiers.

This situation has led the military to become dependent on the “knitted-kippa wearers,” and as their power increases, more pressure is put on the military to curb the integration of women. The IDI document also warns about a gradual undermining of the source of authority in the army due to the “dual loyalty” of religious soldiers, who are committed to both the army’s authority and to religious authorities.

Religious Zionism sees the move from the order for “appropriate integration” of women in the IDF to the order that is supposed to replace it, the “joint service” order, as part of an effort to counter processes of increasing religiosity in the IDF. They worry that the goal is to have as much gender-mixing as possible in the army. This helps to explain the assertion by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron-Tal that leftist groups want to weaken the IDF by putting more women in it. He should be responded to in the same kind of terms: What’s weakening the IDF is the loyalty of a significant portion of the knitted-kippa wearers to the religious Zionist ideology, which, as Harel described, is opposed to the ideology and values of the majority in Israel today. By definition, women in the IDF are loyal only to the state and thus strengthen the army.

The time has come to disband the “alliance of brothers” between the secular bourgeois (Yesh Atid) and the religious-Zionist bourgeois (Habayit Hayehudi). Pushing the “shivyon ba’netel” (equality in sharing of the burden) was a colossal strategic mistake by Yair Lapid, who underestimated the threat to Israel posed by the settlers. The last thing the army needs is to recruit the Haredim, with all that implies for the sacralization of the IDF.

Lapid fell into the trap set for him by Naftali Bennett, who understood that the way to the country’s heart passes through the IDF – that whoever rules the IDF rules Israel. In Lapid’s foolish crusade, he was not only ready to hand the reins of the state to the settlers, he even volunteered to lead the struggle, and on behalf of the value of equality, no less. Here’s hoping he’ll be wiser next time.

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