The Women in Tanks Will Win

The IDF should follow in the footsteps of the world’s most advanced armies, and not capitulate to zealotry and ignorance.

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An Israeli Merkava tank.
An Israeli Merkava tank. Credit: AFP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

The news that the military is considering allowing women to serve as combat soldiers in the armored corps (Haaretz, November 14) has unleashed demons that we thought had disappeared from the world, but which have come to life again in statements by various officials including, embarrassingly, some senior ones.

The Israel Defense Forces tends to support integrating women into combat roles, as reflected in the recent appointment of the second woman to serve as commander of a combat battalion. Brig. Gen. Eran Shani, head of the army’s human resource planning and management division, stated recently that the chief of staff had approved women’s integration into both unit 669 (combat search and rescue) and operational roles in the engineering corps.

Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Shani said, “This trend is steadily expanding to include combat positions that until recently would have raised an eyebrow – how are you even considering this? Opening professions to additional target [populations] will only increase women’s motivation to take on combat roles.”

But the best argument for integrating women into the IDF is the fact that many other countries’ militaries have already opened every military profession, including combat roles, to women (the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, Australia, Sweden and Norway). Opposing this are confused, panicked arguments that can’t be termed anything other than embarrassing.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yiftah Ron Tal, a former commander of the ground forces, claimed that left-wing organizations are pushing to put women into combat positions in order to weaken the army (he later apologized for having spoken “in a way that led to my being misunderstood”). The IDF’s former chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Yisrael Weiss, told an Israeli radio station that “if you put two people into a closed turret ... I tell you that in another nine months, they’ll be raising a little tankist [tank crew member] there.” Brig. Gen. Avigdor Kahalani, speaking on the same program, added a psychological insight of his own: “A woman’s role is to be a mother and bring children into the world. After a war, this motherly feeling – it won’t be the same thing.”

Instead of being afraid of opening additional all-male clubs to women, we should denounce the disturbing views of some rabbis, who see every encounter between men and women as having the potential for sexual licentiousness, and who see women’s singing, and sometimes even that of girls, as an act of sexual seduction. Instead of fearing progress and equality, we ought to be wondering how a man like Ron-Tal, who is currently chairman of the board of the Israel Electric Corporation, could be capable of uttering such an embarrassing conspiracy theory. These primitive and chauvinistic arguments against integrating women into the military are groundless. The IDF should follow in the footsteps of the world’s most advanced armies, and not capitulate to zealotry and ignorance.

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