Israeli military chief apologizes for gaffe

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The IDF chief of staff apologized for joking about boycotts by some religious soldiers of female entertainment troupes.

During an inspection of Golan forces Tuesday, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz was asked by Defense Minister Ehud Barak about the duties of several female soldiers standing nearby.

“They sing during recesses. We bring them over during recess to sing,” Gantz quipped as television cameras rolled.

Barak responded by pointing to one of his civilian aides and saying, “She can sing. She’s not in uniform.”

That drew a bawdier joke from the local commander, Col. Ofek Buchris: “As long as she’s not in uniform, but she’s wearing clothes, it’s OK.”

The exchange, aired on national television, touched a nerve given the military high command’s efforts to curb complaints within the ranks that performances by conscripted female singers offend Orthodox Jewish sensibilities. The controversy has flowed into a wider debate as to the growing influence of religious soldiers in the armed forces.

Gantz exacerbated the affair by telling reporters who observed the Golan repartee that they should not publish it.

The Israel Defense Forces issued a statement Wednesday saying Gantz “clarifies that his remarks were made jovially and that the interpretation appended to them contradicts the chief of staff’s outlook and his record of advancing women in the IDF.”

“The chief of staff has further emphasized that he apologizes before anyone who took offense at his words.”

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