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Kadima MK: Welcome Religious Soldiers, Don't Fight Them

MK Otniel Schneller comes out strongly against reserve generals who said religious soldiers prevent women's advancement in the IDF.
By Elad Benari & Hezki Ezra
First Publish: 11/15/2011, 12:34 PM

MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) strongly attacked on Monday the letter sent by 19 reserve generals to Defense Minister Ehud Barak and to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. In the letter, the reserve generals accuse religious soldiers of preventing women's advancement in the IDF.

"The generals’ letter causes damage to the IDF and to State security,” Schneller told Arutz Sheva.

He described the signatories to the letter as a “group of generals who are irrelevant, all veterans who have had no connection to the defense system for 20 to 30 years and who don’t even understand what’s going on in the defense system.”

The generals’ letter cites recent incidents in which religious soldiers did not participate in ceremonies that included entertainment by female singers and warned that such incidents would lessen women's motivation to serve in the IDF.

They did not mention the religious rights and motivation of religious combat soldiers who daily risk their lives to defend Israel and deserve to have their religious observance respected, certainly in non-combat situations.

Schneller contrasted the complaints of female soldiers with the pressing and ideological need to create an environment that allows all population groups, including those who adhere strictly to halakhah, to serve in the Israeli army. 

“They send a letter to the Chief of Staff implying that there’s religious extremism in the army,” said Schneller. “How do they want to create the balance? It is true that the army wants, and rightfully so, to let female soldiers do more. They’re turning women into generals and I think that’s more than all right.

"On the other hand, there’s the constantly mentioned ideal of 'equal burden'. Equal burden would mean expanding mandatory service also for those who don’t enlist in the IDF today, such as hareidim. We are doing that with the Nachal Haredi and more and more hareidi religious are joining the army. We have to make that possible. If they want mehadrin food, we have to supply it. We need to find the balance in a society that truly wants to see equal burden, where everyone is a partner in the people’s army.”

Schneller said that he believes that there are two motives behind the generals’ letter. The first is their fear that the national religious public will have a more central role in the army and in other positions of influence in Israel.

The second reason, he said, is that these generals are known for leftist views, some belong to "Peace and Security", a left wing group that wants to see what they term a “new Israel” that would return to the 1949 armistice lines and would be a state that in essence obliterates religious Jews.

That’s why this letter is dangerous,” he said. “It’s a letter by irrelevant people who can cause a lot of damage. I think it’s not just chilul hashem (desecration of G-‘ds name), but also a desecration of their ranks as generals.”

“Therefore,” added Schneller, “it would be better to ignore them and push the system to continue with the proper integration of religious, secular and hareidim, and also women in the same people’s army. It’s one of the more important ideals of religious Zionism. We haven’t lowered that flag yet. We ought to preserve it.”

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