Autistic Soldiers Find Their Place in the IDF

While a diagnosis of autism generally leads to an exemption from military service, autistic Israelis are nonetheless welcome to join their country’s armed forces as volunteers. A program called Ro’im Raḥok (Seeing from a Distance) has since 2013 been providing specialized training to prepare people with autism for enlistment. Joshua Zitser reports:

Autistic volunteers are assigned to units where they are deemed to have a comparative advantage—usually military intelligence. Though military intelligence and analysis are vital to every modern army, Israel places a particularly high value on it. . . . In return for volunteering, recruits with autism are offered the skills and connections that could help ease them into an independent future working in civilian professions.

Military divisions in the UK, the U.S., and Singapore, as well as civilian industries in Israel, have shown interest in developing the model. . . . So far, more than 300 soldiers have been recruited from the program to the IDF and serve across 27 different units.

The first unit to recruit from the program was the classified Unit 9900—a prestigious visual-intelligence outfit. Unit 9900’s Major R., [whose full name has been withheld for security reasons], was approached a decade ago about including graduates of Ro’im Raḥok’s aerial-photo-analysis course. He said he agreed even though he didn’t really know what autism was at the time. His unit, he said, needed strong photo analyzers to support its secretive work.

Major R. said he noticed early on that many autistic soldiers seemed to have a natural aptitude for aerial-photo analysis. His neurotypical soldiers easily got distracted, he said, whereas the autistic soldiers seemed able to hyperfocus on the tasks at hand. “Most of them aren’t interested in their surroundings. They don’t want to talk to their friends; they want to sit and work,” Major R. said.

Read more at Business Insider

More about: IDF, Israeli society

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security