What the US can learn from women serving in the Israeli Defense Forces

Should American women be forced to register for Selective Service when they turn 18 years of age just like U.S. males?

Two of the Republican presidential candidates– Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioGroups unendorse Grayson after domestic violence allegations Trump postpones Hispanic roundtable Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (R-Fla.) and Jeb Bush - seem to think so based on their responses to that question during the ABC News Republican debate. A significant number of Americans agree: A Rasmussen poll released after the last debate on the issue showed that 44 percent of Americans surveyed also believe that women should be eligible for a military draft. Only 38 percent of American women support the idea. 

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On Dec. 3, 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Department of Defense was lifting the restrictions on women serving in Infantry and Special Operations, which essentially was the last barrier to drafting women in time of a national emergency.

As the nation ponders this dilemma, many Americans who favor Selective Service registration for women are looking at Israel as a successful model for compulsory military service for both genders. They correctly point out that all Israeli women are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for two years while their male counterparts serve three years.

However, looking to Israel as an example of how America should proceed on this issue is not appropriate for a variety of reasons.

Statistics show that only about 50 percent of Israeli citizens actually serve in the military. Ironically, Israel is studying how the American “All Volunteer” system works with a view toward eliminating the mandatory military service requirement in Israel. 

It must also be taken into account that unlike the U.S. military, the IDF is not an expeditionary force, meaning that the IDF exists only to protect the homeland and does not deploy internationally to fight alongside and support allies. Except for an operation in south Lebanon in the 1980s and a brief fight there against Hezbollah in 2006, the IDF has remained within the Israeli borders.

Furthermore, Israel is a very small country with only eight brigades of Armor and Infantry to defend its borders. Therefore many IDF members actually live at home after their basic training and travel daily to the IDF base where they are assigned. When Israel is attacked, IDF personnel are literally fighting for their homes and family, as well as to defend their national sovereignty. In stark contrast, no American service member has fought on American soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Another myth about service in the IDF is that women serve in Infantry and Armor units. This is simply not true. In fact, in 2015 a decision was made by the IDF to continue its restrictions on women serving in tanks in the Armor Brigades of the IDF. An experiment with women in the Infantry Brigades did not go well either, resulting in the continued exclusion of women from Infantry Brigades.

It is illegitimate to try to compare Israel’s policies regarding women’s eligibility for selective service with the policy of forcing women to serve against their will being presented today. The decision before our nation is not one of gender equality, but whether we as Americans are willing to force our daughters into selective service, potentially sending them to war in foreign lands with the mission of finding and destroying the enemy directly by fire and maneuver, and hand to hand combat.

This decision will not only impact our security but also reflect on our national character.  I hope and pray we make a wise choice.

Boykin was one of the original members of the U.S. Army's Delta Force. He currently serves as executive vice president of the Family Research Council Action (FRC Action).

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