In an effort to better integrate the IDF, the Druze 299 Sword infantry Battalion is to be dissolved and recruits from the Druze population will no longer be limited in their service options.
A military source said the decision was taken by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot following consultations with the heads of the Druze-Israeli community and former battalion commanders.
“Our wish is to fulfill the desires of Druze youths, who clearly want to integrate into the wider IDF, and not be in their own battalion,” the source said. He paid tribute to the battalion’s “magnificent” combat legacy, adding that a commemoration site for its casualties will be set up.
“Druze youths eligible for conscription mainly want to join combat units, in addition to intelligence, communications, and combat support units,” the source said. The Druze community has traditionally played key roles in the IDF.
“There is already a trend among many Druze youths who say that they wish to attend non-sectoral high schools and integrate. The fact is that they want the same in the army,” said the source. “We must listen to this.
However, Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara, himself a Druze, criticized the decision. He argued that it “does a disservice to the heritage and past of one of the IDF’s most important and fascinating units,” he said, “despite the desire for change and integration among the young Druze, which I support.”
Kara — the only representative of the Druze in the current government — suggested that instead of closing down the unit, it should be attached to one of the select infantry regiments, so that it can be preserved along with its name and symbol, for Druze and Jews to serve in voluntarily.