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

An overwhelming majority of the Israeli public thinks that the IDF is promoting female combat soldiers in order to promote equality, and not for military reasons, a new poll found. A significant percentage also said that that the IDF needs to inform women drafting to combat units of the long term health risks involved.

The survey, which was carried out by the Geocartography Knowledge Group, found that 81% of Israelis say that the IDF is interested in expanding the number of female combat soldiers for social reasons, and not because the military requires them. From the previous 81%, over 31% said that promoting equality was the only reason the IDF was promoting female warriors, to the detriment of everything else.

In addition, 71% of those asked said that the IDF should present to future female soldiers the considerable health risks serving in a combat unit can cause, such as fertility problems due to small fractures among other things, and the high number of women soldiers who who leave the army with health issues.

Another 80% of the respondents in the survey answered that mothers should not serve in the reserves like fathers, which can be seen as reinforcing the claims of some senior members of the defense establishment, who contend that that the cost of the IDF's economic investment in training a female soldier is not worth the benefit due to the abbreviated and problematic service of reserve duty for mothers.

The issue of women serving in combat units has been controversial, with many religious soldiers angry that they are forced to violate Jewish law by serving together with women. Jewish law strongly forbids physical contact between men and women and for them to be alone unless they are married to one another. In March, remarks against joining women in combat by Rabbi Yigal Levenstien, a senior Religious Zionist Rabbi sparked wide condemnation, with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) attempting to shut down the Eli Army preparatory academy that Levenstien co-heads.

The IDF has been investing heavily in mixed units, recently dedicating NIS 58 Million to build a mixed training base for its Caracal, Bardalas, and Lions of Jordan Battalions.

In the light of the survey data, the 'Brothers in Arms' NGO, which represents a group of reserve officers, have called for a professional discussion about the necessity and usefulness of women serving in combat units.