Caracal soldiers during training exercise
Caracal soldiers during training exerciseHadas Parush/Flash 90

IDF Ground Forces Commander Major General Kobi Barak defended a recent IDF decision to scrap major components of the IDF's training for mixed-gender units, saying that the physical demands are unnecessary.

Last month, the IDF announced that the obstacle course / physical test known as bohan maslul will be abolished from basic training in mixed-gender units, along with the component that proved most difficult for the female soldiers – the roughly 6-ft. tall wall obstacle. The IDF also lowered the number of bullet magazines carried by women in their combat vests, from six to four.

In an interview with Maariv, Barak defended the IDF's policy of lowering physical standards for female combat soldiers, telling reporter Ben Caspit that mixed battalions are intended for protecting Israel's borders and not for fighting terror.

"A mixed-gender battalion won't need to storm a machine gun nest with heavy weapons, like what a Golani or Givati soldier will need to do in Lebanon," said Barak. "A light infantry battalion such as these need to focus only on its mission, something they do very well."

Barak also addressed the IDF's attempt to train female tank crews, saying that if deployed, the soldiers will be attached to a light infantry unit on the border, and will not go to war. "These tanks may be required to fire a shell at the enemy from fixed positions, but that's it. There are no enemy tank divisions invading us, and our training procedure for the [female soldiers] reflects that," said Barak.

In September, the IDF announced that a pilot program for female soldiers in the IDF armored corps failed after two of the twelve female recruits dropped out during basic training. As part of the pilot program, the IDF sought to have three female soldiers serve in a tank and work together with one male soldier.

Following the dropouts, the IDF is examining whether the tanks can be manned by an all-female crew. The army claims that the drive to recruit women into combat service stems from a shortage of manpower, and plans to launch a new pilot program in which only women serve in the tanks.

Following the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the exemptions to military service received by haredi yeshiva students , the IDF would also happy to establish another haredi battalion despite the financial and logistical implications involved, in the hope that this would ease the burden on several reserve battalions each year.