"People tried to accuse me of feminism, but I'm not a chauvinist or a feminist," the IDF chief said during his second security briefing to government ministers in three years. "There is integration (of women), but it needs to be to a certain extent."
Eisenkot stated that as long as he is at the head of the IDF, women will not be integrated into infantry units on the frontline, including the Golani Brigade, the Paratroopers, the Nahal Brigade, the Givati Brigade and others. "At the moment, I don't foresee the integration of women into the IDF's vanguard," he said.
The IDF chief went on to criticize statements made against the integration of women in the IDF, saying "Some of the comments made on co-ed service derive from ignorance and agendas promoted by interest groups."
Several recent developments in the army have brought the debate over women's service in the IDF, particularly in mixed combat units, back to the forefront.
In early December, 13 women became the first to complete combat training to become tank operators and were deployed to Israel's southern border. Last month, history was made again when Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin appointed Maj. T. as the first female squadron commander.
Zionist-religious rabbis have recently made headlines criticizing women's service in the IDF, with Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu calling for Eisenkot's dismissal and warning that "there's war brewing" over the matter.
The chief of staff stressed that the IDF has one agenda, which is to always be strong and come out victorious. He said the army will continue its policy of offering women opportunities to serve in combat units.
Disagreeing with the IDF chief, Welfare Minister Haim Katz noted that "it's a fact that in tennis, women play three sets, while men play five sets."
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, meanwhile, complained about the fact the IDF's Spokesperson's Office publicizes the diversity in the Israeli army.
"Everyone knows there are people of all kinds in the army. But from to turning this into the glory of the State of Israel is too much," Ariel opined.
"I don't understand why there is an exaggeration in articles in the media about transgenders, gays and lesbians, and girls' service. I see three and five pages in the paper's supplements, with the headline 'Girls in the gun turret.' You can tell the IDF Spokesman released these photos. Why do we need this? You know it's controversial. Your spokesman is promoting your agenda and his own," he accused.
"He's not my spokesman," the IDF chief said with a smile. "He's defined as the IDF's spokesman."
"Then I'll get you a meeting with him, and you can ask him how many articles were published, and you'll see there is an exaggeration, which is unnecessary and hurts other soldiers," Ariel asserted. "On the one hand, it's possible someone accepts this. But on the other hand, there are those hurt by it. I recommend you tell the IDF Spokesman to stop this. The large number of articles is not beneficial."
Eisenkot responded that the number of transgender soldiers in the IDF is negligible and insignificant.
Ariel's close associates later stressed that the minister is not opposed to women's service in the IDF, pointing to the fact his own daughters served in the army. His position, they said, is the same determined in the early days of the state: Any woman can contribute, either by doing national service or army service.