The IDF General Staff has been grappling with a new dilemma recently: In the modern battlefield – who is a "combat soldier"?
While classic warfare doctrines say that combat soldiers are those who literally face the enemy on the ground, modern warfare is fought in growing virtual arenas, in which cyber-combatants play key roles.
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Various IDF corps now face a new reality, and according to a Friday report in Yedioth Ahronoth, they are at odds over the placement of future recruits, especially those presenting exceptional computer skills.
Traditionally, the Ground Forces and the IAF's personnel needs have always taken precedent when it came to the placement of recruits with top-level medical and psychological profiles; but over the past few years, the IDF has created various new cyber, intelligence and drone units, which are now demanding their share of quality personnel.
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The new units are now pushing to annul the Ground Forces' innate claim to such recruits, saying that the military "must revise its definition of a combat soldier."
"Soldiers with the Cyber Unit, as vital as they are, cannot be called 'combatants' any more than soldiers with the Iron Dome Unit can be called air-defense servicemen," a top officer with the Armored Corps told Yedioth Ahronoth.
"At the end of the day, the former sits at a computer somewhere in central Israel and goes home at 5 pm, and the latter may be stationed near the border, but does his work from the safety of his office. You can't compare that to the risks Golani or Armor soldiers face in the field every day."
The officer continued: "We have to ask ourselves what kind of IDF chief we would like to have in 30 years. Someone from Cyber or someone from the Paratroopers."
Colonel (Res.) Yair Cohen, a former commander of Unit 8200 – the Military Intelligence's elite unit – wholeheartedly disagrees: "Israel's advantage lies with its technological power and this relative advantage has to be cultivated.
"We're blessed with bright youths and we have to be very careful how we allocate this resource. One cyber-combatant can inflict untold damage on the enemy."
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