A special committee active over the past year has recommended revolutionizing women's service in the Israel Defense Forces.
The committee, headed by former head of the military resources department, Major-General (reserve) Yehuda Segev, examined the role of women throughout the various IDF units.
The committee was appointed by the head of the human resources department Major-General Elazar Stern, and is set to give its recommendations in the next few days. Members of the committee ascertained that men and women will be assigned identical positions during their military service based on set criteria and the recruits' personal attributes, rather then gender. Namely, men and women will have equal opportunities throughout the military establishment.
Nontheless, assigning women to combat units will be based on professional and medical criteria. The duration of military service for men and women will be identical and in accordance with decisions pertaining to the period of service.
"There will be no units barred to women in the IDF because they are women," notes the report. Members of the committee have determined that only the defense minister will be able to decide whether a specific unit will be closed to women, and this includes all the combat units, battalions and elite units which are currently barred to women.
At present female soldiers are assigned to specific combat positions in anti-tank units, the armored corps, the Karkal or `Lynx, infantry battalion, which combines the service of both men and women, and to NBC companies.
The committee has also recommended that the risk of falling into captivity will not be part of the criteria considered in the decision making process.
Right person for the right post
Sources at the committee have said that the aim is to integrate women in all combat positions in all units. The future model, it was noted in the report, focuses on assigning the right person to the right post.
Members of the committee are concerned about the drop in the number of female recruits which reaches just 55%. "If our recommendations are not accepted, we should warn that the number of female recruits into the IDF will soon reach 50%, and we shall be forced to switch to the voluntary system."
The committee recommends looking into an alternative possibility of shortening men's service to that of women's service. This alternative includes extending women's service to 32 months; shortening the service of male and female administration personnel to 30 months; utilizing the excess of women by establishing an additional combat force; and remunerating those serving for a duration of 36 months (between the 32nd and 36th month).
The main problem in the committee's recommendations is that there is currently no solution for increasing the numbers of women in combat units. To date the army has been unable to break the 2.5% barrier of women serving in combat units. Hence, despite the optimism that gripped members of the committee, it is not clear how the military will fill its posts with female combatants.
Research on the subject has shown that women refrain from serving in combat units for two key reasons: The first is due to the 36 month service (similar to men) instead of 24 months, and the second is the reserve duty that follows the service, of which female soldiers are exempt.
A senior source at the IDF said that it is highly doubtful that Israeli society is ready to accept the possibility of female soldiers falling into captivity. "The defense and political echelons will find it very difficult to approve such a decision," said a senior IDF officer.