Much has already been said about the similarity between “Pillar of Defense” and past operations, regarding tactics, strategy, the pre-election [timing] and more. But allow me to note one additional dimension with no substantive difference: the exclusion of women from the current security/military discourse.
We have already become accustomed to the fact that the public military discussion is conducted by men. The TV studios are packed with men in military uniform and berets, alongside them solemn commentators with their prophecies. Beyond a few newscasters, missing from the screens and radio waves were female voices and perspectives. Except for the chief military censor, Brig. Gen. Sima Vaknin-Gil, whose clear position flickered briefly among the public, no matter-of-fact voice of any woman from within the security establishment, or outside it, was heard – despite the fact that many women take an active role in the fighting in the south. Many were called up for reserve duty; many others were left alone at the home front, working, studying and taking care of children, while family members and relatives received emergency call-up orders for military reserves.
Throughout the years, many items flooded the media, nicknamed “officers’ letters”: petitions signed by IDF officers calling on the military establishment to take on a given army line. That was the case in 1978 when the first officers’ letter was published, calling on then Prime Minister Menachem Begin to sign a peace agreement with Egypt; that was the case in 2011 when combat soldiers released another letter calling for intensified talks with the Palestinians. The fact that women were absent from these initiatives is not coincidental. In the eyes of the establishment, woman may understand a lot of things, but they certainly don’t understand security.
Against this backdrop, in the last day, a letter was signed that was sent to the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] and the defense minister [Ehud Barak], expressing support for the IDF’s initial operation in the Gaza Strip, the purpose of which was to bring quiet to the communities in the south with a firm attempt to avoid firing on innocent civilians. On the other hand, the letter clearly called on the two to refrain from expand the limits of the air campaign, and to avoid a ground incursion of military infantry corps, an action that would have been likely to inflame the entire region and increase the cycle of bloodshed between both sides.
As is the way of liberal feminism, such initiatives seek to take an active part in the contemporary and professional discussion, in which women of a certain background — military in this case — can contribute, from their experience and professional perspectives. Other initiatives would be welcome; they don’t come at the expense of one another. Beyond the operative recommendation against getting enmeshed in a dangerous and superfluous ground operation — the “letter from the women officers” asks to spur and encourage additional women to take an active role in the professional military discussion that exists in Israel, and to influence and become an active and high-quality partner in military actions and discussions that influence the lives of us all.