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May 28, 2015

Washington Times Provides Detailed Coverage of Women in IDF

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The Washington Times deserves credit for its coverage of a subject that many people may think they know but perhaps do not: The role of women in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Israel is the only country that requires mandatory military service for women, and the IDF says that 90 percent of its jobs are open to them.

But the picture is more nuanced than that summary might suggest, as Times veteran military correspondent Rowan Scarborough notes (“Israel keeps women from war’s front lines,” May 26, 2015). Scarborough reports that U.S. advocates for combat roles for women in U.S. forces “often point to the IDF as an illustration of a military in which women are thriving in ground combat units.”

Yet, he details, the role of women in the Israeli military is more complex than many note: “Israeli women’s assignments are far more restrictive than the roles envisioned by advocates in the United States who anticipate an American military that opens all ground combat units to women.” The Times says “a closer look shows Israeli women are not in direct combat special operations such as the Green Berets. Nor are they in front-line combat brigades mobilized to engage in direct heavy combat.”

Restrictions on the role of IDF women also apply to armor units, where plans for their integration into tank divisions were “ruled out” following a 2015 study which noted both physical strength differences that wound hinder performance and problems in putting men and women in the close quarters of a tank for days at a time.

But with these plans canceled, the IDF intends to increase the number of women serving as fighter pilots, in select border patrol battalions, field intelligence officials, and as members of artillery units. This includes assigning female troops to support roles in certain special operations positions, something the U.S. Special Operations Command already does.

However, in infantry, “virtually all of Israel’s female combat soldiers are confined to two light battalions—the Caracal and the Lions of Jordan—which are assigned to guard the borders with Egypt and Jordan, the only Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel.” While Israeli women soldiers do help patrol borders or help to train men for combat positions, these are missions that do not involve direct ground combat in a deliberate offensive against the enemy.

Scarborough quotes Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness: “None of America’s allies, much less potential adversaries are treating women like men in the combat arms.”

The Washington Times deserves credit for this nuanced report—potentially of interest to those involved in ongoing debates in the United States and elsewhere about women in military combat roles. The article highlights both the wide variety of openings and limitations that exist for women in the IDF.—By Sean Durns

Posted by ER at May 28, 2015 02:39 PM

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