Military of Israel
Israel army flagIdf logo4
Israel Defense Forces flag and logo
Military age 18
Conscription 18
Available for
military service
1,499,186 males, age 17–49 (2000 est.),
1,462,063 females, age 17–49 (2000 est.)
Fit for
military service
1,226,903 males, age 17–49 (2000 est.),
1,192,319 females, age 17–49 (2000 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
50,348 males (2000 est.),
47,996 females (2000 est.)
Active personnel 176,500[1] (ranked 34th)
Budget $13.3 billion[2] (2009)
Domestic suppliers IAI, IMI, IWI, Elbit, Elisra, Elta, Rafael, Soltam, Plasan, Automotive, Hatehof

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) (Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Loudspeaker Tzva HaHagana LeYisra'el , lit. Defense Army for Israel), commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal (צה"ל), are Israel's military forces, comprising the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel. The IDF is headed by its Chief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; the current Chief of Staff, since 2007, is Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi.

At the order of Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion on May 26, 1948, the Israel Defense Forces were officially formed as a conscript army out of the paramilitary group Haganah, incorporating the militant groups Irgun and Lehi. It served as Israel's armed forces in all the country's major military operations — including the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Operation Litani, the 1982 Lebanon War, Operation Defensive Wall, the 2006 Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. While originally the IDF was operational on three fronts—against Lebanon and Syria in the north, Jordan and Iraq in the east, and Egypt in the south—after the 1979 Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty, its activities have mainly been concentrated in southern Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and the Second Intifada.

The Israel Defense Forces differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways, including the conscription of women, and the structure, with close relations between the ground forces, air force and navy. Since its founding, the IDF has striven to be a unique army fitting Israel's specific requirements. In 1965, the Israel Defense Forces was awarded the Israel Prize for its contribution to education.[3] The IDF uses several technologies developed in Israel, many of them made specifically to match the IDF's needs, such as the Merkava main battle tank, advanced Hi-Tech weapons systems, and the Galil and Tavor assault rifles. The Uzi submachine gun was used by the IDF until December 2003, ending a service that began in 1954. The IDF also has close military relations with the United States,[4] including development cooperation, such as on the F-15I jet, THEL laser defense system, and the Arrow missile defense system.


Raising the Ink Flag at Umm Rashrash (Eilat)

The Ink Flag, a symbol of the IDF's victory in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War

Main article: History of the Israel Defense Forces

The IDF traces its roots to Jewish paramilitary organizations in the New Yishuv, starting with the Second Aliyah. The first such organization was Bar-Giora, founded in September 1907. It was converted to Hashomer in April 1909, which operated until the British Mandate of Palestine came into being in 1920. Hashomer was an elitist organization with narrow scope, and was mainly created to protect against criminal gangs seeking to steal property. During World War I the forerunners of the Haganah/IDF were the Zion Mule Corps and the Jewish Legion. After the Arab riots against Jews in April 1920, the Yishuv's leadership saw the need to create a nationwide underground defense organization, and the Haganah was founded in June of the same year. The Haganah became a full-scale defense force after the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine with an organized structure, consisting of three main units—the Field Corps, Guard Corps and the Palmach. During World War II the successor to the Jewish Legion of World War I was the Jewish Brigade.

The IDF was founded following the establishment of the State of Israel, after Defense Minister and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion published the order for its creation on May 26, 1948. The order called for the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces, and the abolishment of all other Jewish armed forces. Although Ben-Gurion had no legal authority to issue such an order, the order was made legal by the cabinet on May 31.[5] The two other Jewish underground organizations, Irgun and Lehi, agreed to join the IDF if they would be able to form independent units and agreed not to make independent arms purchases. This was the background for the dispute which led to the Altalena Affair, when following a confrontation regarding the weapons it brought resulted in a battle between Irgun members the newly-created IDF. It ended when the ship was shelled. Following the affair, all independent Irgun and Lehi units were either disbanded or merged into the IDF. The Palmach, a strong lobby within the Haganah, also joined the IDF with provisions, and Ben Gurion responded by disbanding its staff in 1949, after which many senior Palmach officers retired, notably its first commander, Yitzhak Sadeh.

The new army organized itself during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, when Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen declared war on Israel. Twelve infantry and armored brigades were created: Golani, Carmeli, Alexandroni, Kiryati, Givati, Etzioni, the 7th and 8th armored brigades, Oded, Harel, Yiftach and Negev.[6] After the war, some of the brigades were converted to reserve units, and others were disbanded. Directorates and corps were created from corps and services in the Haganah, and this basic structure in the IDF still exists today.

Immediately after the 1948 war, the Israel Defense Forces shifted to low intensity conflict against Arab Palestinian guerrillas. The 1956 Suez Crisis was the IDF's first test of strength after 1949, and the new army proved itself by capturing the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, which was later returned. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, West Bank and Golan Heights from the surrounding Arab states, changing the balance of power in the region as well as the role of the IDF. In the following years leading up to the Yom Kippur War, the IDF fought a war of attrition against Egypt in the Sinai and a border war against the PLO in Jordan, culminating in the Battle of Karameh.

The surprise of the Yom Kippur War and its aftermath completely changed the IDF's procedures and approach to warfare. Organizational changes were made and more time was dedicated to training for conventional warfare. However, in the following years the army's role slowly shifted again to low-intensity conflict, urban warfare and counter-terrorism. It was involved in the Lebanese Civil War, initiating Operation Litani and later the 1982 Lebanon War, where the IDF ousted Palestinian guerilla organizations from Lebanon. Palestinian militancy has been the main focus of the IDF ever since, especially during the First and Second Intifadas, Operation Defensive Shield and the Gaza War, causing the IDF to change many of its values and publish the IDF Spirit. The Shia organization Hezbollah has also been a growing threat, against which the IDF fought a full-scale war in 2006.


Israeli Sea Corps Soldiers

Sailors of the Israeli navy during an honors ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in 2007

The name Israel Defense Forces (Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Tzva HaHagana LeYisra'el, literally "The Defense Army for Israel") was ratified by the Israeli cabinet on May 26, 1948, the day that the order for the army's founding was published by David Ben-Gurion. The main suggested alternative was Israeli Army/Army of Israel (Hebrew: צְבָא יִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Tzva Yisra'el), while others included Jewish Army and Army of the State. The name was chosen for two reasons: because it emphasized that army's role was for defense only, and because it incorporated the name Haganah, the paramilitary organization it was based on.[7]

At least three people claim to have coined the name. The Defense Ministry CEO at the time, David Izre'eli, wrote that he suggested it to Levi Eshkol, who forwarded the suggestion to the cabinet. The Chief of Staff Ya'akov Dori, while not claiming to have personally coined the name, said that it was prevalent among senior army personnel and therefore the only natural name. Ben-Gurion was the third, quoted as saying "I gave the name. The name was 'Israel Defense Forces'". Among the primary opponents of the name were Minister Haim-Moshe Shapira and the Hatzohar party, both suggesting the name Israeli Army.[7]

Organization Edit

All branches of the IDF are subordinate to a single General Staff. The Chief of the General Staff is the only serving officer having the rank of Lieutenant General (Rav Aluf). He reports directly to the Defense Minister and indirectly to the Prime Minister of Israel and the cabinet. Chiefs of Staff are formally appointed by the cabinet, based on the Defense Minister's recommendation, for three years, but the government can vote to extend their service to four (and in rare occasions even five) years. The current chief of staff is Gabi Ashkenazi. He replaced Dan Halutz, who resigned from the IDF following the 2006 Lebanon War.

Structure Edit

The IDF is composed of the following bodies (those whose respective heads are members of the General Staff are in bold):

Structure idf

Structure of the Israel Defense Forces. (click to enlarge)

Regional commands Edit

Arms Edit

Ground Arm

Air and Space Arm

Sea Arm

Other bodies Edit




General Staff

Related bodiesEdit

The following bodies work closely with the IDF, but do not (or only partially) belong to its formal structure.

Security forcesEdit


Ranks and insignia Edit


Main article: Israel Defense Forces ranks

Unlike most world armies, these ranks are common for all corps in the IDF, including the air force and navy. All enlisted ranks, as well as some of the officer and NCO ranks, may be given as a result of time spent in service, and not for accomplishment or merit.

From the formation of the IDF until the late 1980s, sergeant major was a particularly important warrant officer rank, in line with usage in other armies. However, in the 1980s and 1990's the proliferating ranks of sergeant major became devalued, and now all professional NCO ranks are a variation on sergeant major (rav samal) with the exception of rav nagad. All translations here are the official translations of the IDF's website. [8]

Conscripts (Hogrim) (Conscript ranks may be gained purely on time served)

Warrant Officers (Nagadim) (All volunteers)

  • Sergeant First Class (Rav Samal)
  • Master Sergeant (Rav Samal Rishon)
  • Sergeant Major (Rav Samal Mitkadem)
  • Warrant Officer (Rav Samal Bakhir)
  • Chief Warrant Officer (Rav Nagad)

Academic officers (Ktzinim Akadema'im)

  • Professional Academic Officer (Katzin Miktzo'i Akadema'i)
  • Senior Academic Officer (Katzin Akadema'i Bakhir)

Officers (Ktzinim)


Main article: Israel Defense Forces insignia

IDF soldiers have three types of insignia (other than ranks) which identify their corps, specific unit, and position.

Corps are identified by a pin attached to the beret. Soldiers serving in staffs above corps level are often identified by the General Corps pin, despite not officially belonging to it, or the pin of a related corps. New recruits undergoing basic training do not have this pin. Beret colors are also often indicative of the soldier's corps, although most non-combat corps do not have their own beret, and sometimes wear the color of the corps to which the base they're stationed in belongs. Individual units are identified by a shoulder tag attached to the shoulder strap. Most units in the IDF have their own tags, although those that do not generally use tags identical to their command's tag (corps, directorate, or regional command).

While the position/job of a soldier cannot often be identified, two optional factors help make this identification: an aiguillette attached to the left shoulder strap and shirt pocket, and a pin indicating the soldier's work type (usually given by a professional course). Other pins may indicate the corps or additional courses taken. Finally, an optional battle pin indicates a war that a soldier has fought in.


During 1950-66, Israel spent an average of 9% of its GDP on defense. Defense expenditures increased dramatically after both the 1967 and 1973 wars. They reached a high of about 24% of GDP in the 1980s, but have since come back down to about 9%,[9] about $15 billion, following the signing of peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt. In 2008, Israel spent $16.2 billion on its armed forces, making it the country with the biggest ratio of defense spending to GDP and as a percentage of the budget of all developed countries.($2,300 per person).[10][11]

On 30 September 2009 Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed an additional NIS 1.5 billion for the defense budget to help Israel address problems regarding Iran. The budget changes were endorsed 2 months after Israel approved its current two-year budget. The defense budget in 2009 stands at NIS 48.6 billion and NIS 53.2 billion for 2010 - the highest amount in Israel's history. The figure constitutes 6.3% of expected gross domestic product and 15.1% of the overall budget, even before the planned NIS 1.5 billion addition.[12]


Regular serviceEdit


Soldiers on their regular service

National military service is mandatory for any non-Arab Israeli citizen (as well as Druze men) over the age of 18, although other exceptions may be made on religious, physical or psychological grounds (see Profile 21).


Israeli border policemen (not part of the IDF) with a Magav Sufa in Jerusalem with the Mount of Olives in the background

Men serve three years in the IDF, while women serve two. The IDF allowed women who volunteer for several combat positions to serve for three years because combat soldiers must undergo a lengthy period of training. Women in other positions, such as programmers, who require lengthy training time may also serve three years. Women in most combat positions are also required to serve as reserve for several years after their dismissal from regular service.

Non-IDF service Edit

Other than the National Service (Sherut Leumi), there are a number of ways for IDF conscripts to serve in bodies other than the IDF. The combat option is Israel Border Police (Magav) service, part of the Israel Police. Some soldiers complete their IDF combat training and later undergo additional terror and Border Police training. These are assigned to Border Police units. The Border Police units fight side by side with the regular IDF combat units. They are also responsible for security in heavy urban areas such as Jerusalem.

Non-combat services include the Mandatory Police Service (Shaham) program, where youth are instead recruited to the police, Israel Prison Service duty, and service in other wings of the Israeli Security Forces.

Reserve service Edit


Officers in reserve duty before parachuting exercise

Following regular service, men may be called for reserve service of up to one month annually, until the age of 43–45 (reservists may volunteer after this age), and may be called for active duty immediately in times of crisis. In most cases, the reserve duty is carried out in the same unit for years, in many cases the same unit as the active service and by the same people. Many soldiers who have served together in active service continue to meet in reserve duty for years after their discharge, causing reserve duty to become a strong male bonding experience in Israeli society.

Although still available to be called up in times of crisis, most Israeli men, and virtually all women, do not actually perform reserve service in any given year. Units do not always call up all of their reservists every year, and a variety of exemptions are available if called for regular reserve service. Virtually no exemptions exist for reservists called up in a time of crisis, but experience has shown that in such cases (most recently, the 2006 Lebanon War) exemptions are rarely requested or exercised; units generally achieve recruitment rates above those considered fully-manned.

Recently, legislation has been proposed for reform in the reserve service, lowering the maximum service age to 40, designating it as a purely emergency force, as well as many other changes to the current structure (although the Defence Minister can suspend any portion of it at any time for security reasons). The age threshold for many reservists whose positions are not listed, though, will be fixed at 49. The legislation is set out to take effect by 13 March 2008.

Women Edit

Israeli military police women stand in formation during an honor cordon ceremony for Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates in Tel Aviv

Female soldiers of the Military Police Corps

Israel is unique among nations in conscripting women, and assigns some drafted women to infantry combatant service which places them directly in the line of enemy fire.[13]. However, approximately one third of female conscripts (more than double the figure for men) are exempted, mainly for religious and nuptial reasons.

Following their active service, women, like men, are in theory required to serve up to one month annually in reserve duty. However, in practice only some women in combat roles get called for active reserve, and only for a few years following their active service, with many exit points (e.g., pregnancy).[citation needed]

Apart from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when manpower shortages saw many of them taking active part in battles on the ground, women were historically barred from battle in the IDF, serving in a variety of technical and administrative support roles. IDF commanders have historically considered the practice of assigning women to combatant duties to be immoral due to the heightened danger of sexual assault that female soldiers would face if captured by the enemy:

Soon after the establishment of the IDF... the removal of all women from front-line positions was decreed. Decisive for this decision was the very real possibility of falling into enemy hands as prisoners of war. It was fair and equitable, it was argued, to demand from women equal sacrifice and risk; but the risk for women prisoners of rape and sexual molestation was infinitely greater than the same risk for men.[14]

During this period the IDF utilized female instructors for training male soldiers in certain roles, particularly tank crews.

After a landmark 1994 High Court appeal by Alice Miller, a Jewish immigrant from South Africa, the Air Force was instructed to open its pilots course to women. Miller failed the entrance exams, but since her initiative, many additional combat roles were opened for women.[15] As of 2005, women are allowed to serve in 83% of all positions in the military, including Shipboard Navy Service (except submarines), and Artillery. Combat roles are voluntary for women.

As of 2002, 33% of lower rank officers are women, 21% of Captains and Majors, and 3% of the most senior ranks.[citation needed]

Chel Nashim IDF1948

Female soldiers in 1948

Women primarily serve in the border patrol of the Israel Defense Force. Yael Rom, the first female pilot in the Israeli Air Force, earned her wings in 1951.[16] The first female jet fighter pilot, Roni Zuckerman, received her wings in 2001.[16] In November 2007 the first woman was appointed to the rank of deputy squadron commander.[17]

Women serve in combat support and light combat roles in the Artillery Corps, infantry units and armored divisions. A few platoons, named Karakal, were formed, in which men and women serve together as light infantry on the borders with Egypt and Jordan. Karakal became a battalion in 2004.[15]

The IDF abolished its "Women's Corps" command in 2001, with a view that it had become an anachronism and a stumbling block towards integration of women in the army as regular soldiers with no special status. However, after pressures from feminist lobbies, the Chief of Staff was persuaded to keep an "adviser for women's affairs". Female soldiers now fall under the authority of individual units based on jobs and not on gender. The 2006 Lebanon War was the first time since 1948 that women were involved in field operations alongside men. Airborne helicopter engineer Sergeant-Major (res.) Keren Tendler became the first female combat soldier to be killed in action.[15]

Minorities in the IDF Edit

Druze and Circassian men are subject to mandatory conscription to the IDF just like Israeli Jews[18]. Originally, they served in the framework of a special unit called "The Minorities' Unit", which still exists today, in the form of the Herev ("Sword") independent battalion. However, since the 1980s Druze soldiers have increasingly protested this practice, which they considered a means of segregating them and denying them access to elite units. The army has increasingly admitted Druze soldiers to regular combat units and promoting them to higher ranks from which they had been previously excluded. In recent years, several Druze officers have reached ranks as high as Major General and many have received commendations for distinguished service. It is important to note that, proportionally to their numbers, the Druze people achieve much higher—documented—levels in the Israeli army than other soldiers. Nevertheless, some Druze still charge that discrimination continues, such as exclusion from the Air Force, although the official low security classification for Druze has been abolished for some time. The first Druze aircraft navigator completed his training course in 2005; his identity is protected as with all air force pilots. After the battle of Ramat Yohanan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, approximately 1000 Syrian Druze soldiers and officers deserted and joined Israel.[citation needed]

Since the late 1970s the Druze Initiative Committee centered at the village of Beit Jan and linked to the Israeli Communist Party has been campaigning to abolish Druze conscription.

Conscription is a tradition among some of the Druze population, with most opposition in Druze communities of the Golan Heights; 83 percent of Druze boys serve in the army, according to the IDF's statistics.[19]

By law, all Israeli citizens are subject to conscription and it is the Defense Minister's complete discretion to grant exemption to individual citizens or classes of citizens. A long-standing policy dating to Israel's early years extends an exemption to all other Israeli minorities (most notably Israeli Arabs). However, there is a long-standing government policy of encouraging Bedouins to volunteer and offer them various inducements, and in some impoverished Bedouin communities a military career seems one of the few means of (relative) social mobility available. Also, Muslims and Christians are accepted as volunteers, even at an age greater than 18.[20]

Bedouin IDF1949

Bedouin soldiers in 1949.

From among non-Bedouin Arab citizens, the number of volunteers for military service—some Christian Arabs and even a few Muslim Arabs—is minute, and the government makes no special effort to increase it. Six Israeli Arabs have received orders of distinction as a part of their military service; of them the most famous is a Bedouin officer, Lieutenant Colonel Abd el-Majid Hidr (also known as Amos Yarkoni), who received the Order of Distinction. Recently, a Bedouin officer was promoted to the rank of Colonel.[citation needed]

Until the second term of Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister, social benefits given to families in which at least one member (including a grandfather, uncle or cousin) had served at some time in the armed forces were significantly higher than to "non-military" families, which was considered a means of blatant discrimination between Jews and Arabs. Rabin had led the abolition of the measure, in the teeth of strong opposition from the Right. At present, the only official advantage from military service is the attaining of security clearance and serving in some types of government positions (in most cases, security-related), as well as some indirect benefits. In practice, however, a large number of Israeli employers placing "wanted" ads include the requirement "after military service" even when the job is in no way security-related, which is considered as a euphemism for "no Arab/Haredim need apply". The test of former military service is also frequently applied in admittance to various newly-founded communities, effectively barring Arabs from living there. Also, the Israeli national airline El Al hires only pilots who had served in the Air Force, which in practice excludes Arabs from the job.

On the other hand, non-Arab Israelis argue that the mandatory three-year (two years for women) military service puts them at a disadvantage, as they effectively lose three years of their life through their service in the IDF, while the Arab Israelis are able to start right into their jobs after school, or study at a university. In fact, the most frequently heard argument whenever the subject of the discrimination of Arabs comes up—whether on the Knesset floor, in the media or among ordinary citizens—is that the Arabs' "non fulfillment of military duty" justifies their exclusion from some or all the benefits of citizenship. The late former general Rafael Eitan, when he went into politics in the 1980s, proposed that the right to vote be linked to military service. The idea occasionally crops up again among right-wing groups and parties.

According to the 2004 U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Israel and the occupied territories, "Israeli Arabs were not required to perform mandatory military service and, in practice, only a small percentage of Israeli Arabs served in the military. Those who did not serve in the army had less access than other citizens to social and economic benefits for which military service was a prerequisite or an advantage, such as housing, new-household subsidies, and employment, especially government or security-related industrial employment. Regarding the latter, for security reasons, Israeli Arabs generally were restricted from working in companies with defense contracts or in security-related fields."

In recent years, there have been several initiatives to enable Israeli Arabs to volunteer for civilian National Service instead of to the IDF, completion of which would grant the same privileges as those granted to IDF veterans. However, this plan has gained strong resistance from Arab members of the parliament, and as a result, has not been implemented.

Homosexuals Edit

Since 1993, homosexuals serve openly in the military, including special units, without any discrimination. This happened after a reserves officer testified before the Knesset that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics, and his rank had been revoked, because of his sexual orientation.[21]

Haredim Edit


IDF soldiers of the religious 97th "Netzah Yehuda" Infantry Battalion.

Men in the Haredi community may choose to defer service while enrolled in yeshivot (see Tal committee), a practice that is a source of tension between the Israeli religious and secular communities. While options exist for Haredim to serve in the IDF in an atmosphere conducive to their religious convictions, most Haredim do not choose to serve in the IDF.

An option created for the Haredi public to serve is the 97th "Netzah Yehuda" Infantry Battalion. This unit is a standard IDF infantry battalion focused on the Jenin region. To allow Haredi soldiers to serve, the Netzah Yehuda bases follow the highest standards of Jewish dietary laws and the only women permitted on these bases are wives of soldiers and officers.

Additionally, there are Haredim who serve in the IDF via the Hesder system of a 5 year program which includes 1.5 years of religious studies, 1.5 years of military service & 2 years of religious studies during which the soldiers can be recalled to active duty immediately.

Overseas volunteers Edit

Foreigners typically serve with the IDF in one of three ways:

  • The Mahal program is for young non-Israeli Jews (men younger than 24 and women younger than 21). The program consists typically of 16 months of IDF service, including a lengthy training for those in combat units or one month of non-combat training and additional three months of learning Hebrew after enlisting, if necessary. Volunteering for longer service is possible. There are two additional subcategories of Mahal, both geared solely for religious men: Mahal Nahal Haredi (16 months), and Mahal Hesder, which combines yeshiva study of 6.5 months with IDF service of 14.5 months, for a total of 21 months. Similar IDF programs exist for Israeli overseas residents.
  • Sar-El is a program for non-Israeli citizens, Jews and non-Jews, who are 17 years or older (or 14 if accompanied by parents). It usually consists of three weeks of volunteer service on different rear army bases, doing non-military work.
  • Garin Tzabar is a program mainly for Israelis who emigrated with their parents to the United States at a young age. Although a basic knowledge of the Hebrew language is not mandatory, it is helpful. Of all the programs listed, only Garin Tzabar requires full-length service in the IDF. The program is set up in stages: first the participants go through five seminars in their country of origin, then have an absorption period in Israel at a kibbutz. Each delegation is adopted by a kibbutz in Israel and has living quarters designated for it. The delegation shares responsibilities in the kibbutz when on military leave. Participants start the program three months before being enlisted in the army at the beginning of August.
  • Marva is short-term basic training for two months

Weapons and equipmentEdit

F-15I Ra'am

The Israeli Air Force F-15I Ra'am

Main article: Military equipment of Israel
Equipment[1] QuantityIn ServiceBeing delivered
High quality main battle tanks 1030 1030 300
Medium and low quality tanks 1980 1620
APCs, IFVs, ARVs, LCVs 7070 7070 250
Self-propelled artillery 1254 1114 60
Combat warplanes 874 541 25
Transport warplanes 76 66 9
Training warplanes 171 110
Military helicopters 286 184 6
Heavy SAM batteries 25 25 1
Warships 13 13 9
Submarines 3 3 2
Patrol boats 50 50 8

Military technology Edit

The IDF possesses top-of-the-line weapons and computer systems used and recognized worldwide. Some are of US origin (with some equipment being modified for IDF use) such as the M4A1 assault rifle, the SR-25 7.62 mm semi-automatic sniper rifle, the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. Israel also has developed its own independent weapons industry, which has developed weapons and vehicles such as the Merkava battle tank series, the Kfir fighter aircraft, and various small arms such as the Galil and Tavor assault rifles, and the Uzi submachine gun.

The IDF also has several large internal research and development departments, and it purchases many technologies produced by the Israeli security industries including IAI, IMI, Elbit, El-Op, Rafael, Soltam, and dozens of smaller firms. Many of these developments have been battle-tested in Israel's numerous military engagements, making the relationship mutually beneficial, the IDF getting tailor-made solutions and the industries a very high repute[citation needed].

In response to the price overruns on the US Littoral Combat Ship program, Israel is considering producing their own warships, which would take a decade[22] and depend on diverting US financing to the project.[23]

Main developmentsEdit

Israel's military technology is most famous for its guns, armored fighting vehicles (tanks, tank-converted armored personnel carriers (APCs), armoured bulldozers, etc.), unmanned aerial vehicles, and rocketry (missiles and rockets). Israel also has manufactured aircraft including the Kfir (reserve), IAI Lavi (canceled), and the IAI Phalcon Airborne early warning System, and naval systems (patrol and missile ships). Much of the IDF's electronic systems (intelligence, communication, command and control, navigation etc.) are Israeli-developed, including many systems installed on foreign platforms (esp. aircraft, tanks and submarines), as are many of its precision-guided munitions.

Israel is the only country in the world with an operational anti-ballistic missile defense system on the national level - the Arrow system, jointly funded and produced by Israel and the United States. Israel has also worked with the US on development of a tactical high energy laser system against medium range rockets (called Nautilus or THEL).

Israel has the independent capability of launching reconnaissance satellites into orbit, a capability shared with Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, South Korea, Italy, Germany, the People's Republic of China, India, Japan, Brazil and Ukraine. Both the satellites (Ofeq) and the launchers (Shavit) were developed by the Israeli security industries.

Israel is also said to have developed an indigenous nuclear capability, although no official details or acknowledgments have ever been publicized. On the issue of this nuclear weapons program, Israel chooses to follow a policy of deliberate ambiguity.

Israel has also recently purchased the Wolf Armoured Vehicle APC, to be used in urban warfare and to protect VIPs.



The IDF mission is to "defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel. To protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life."[24]

Main DoctrineEdit

The main doctrine consists of the following principles:[25]

Basic PointsEdit

  • Israel cannot afford to lose a single war
  • Defensive on the strategic level, no territorial ambitions
  • Desire to avoid war by political means and a credible deterrent posture
  • Preventing escalation
  • Determine the outcome of war quickly and decisively
  • Combating terrorism
  • Very low casualty ratio

Prepare for DefenseEdit

  • A small standing army with an early warning capability, regular air force and navy
  • An efficient reserve mobilization and transportation system

Move to CounterattackEdit

  • Multi-arm coordination
  • Transferring the battle to enemy's territory quickly
  • Quick attainment of war objectives

Low intensity warfare Edit

Owing to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the tactics of the IDF have been adapted for low intensity warfare primarily against Palestinian militants operating from within densely-populated civilian territory.[citation needed]

Assassinations Edit

The IDF employs a strategy of "focused foiling" (Hebrew: סיכול ממוקד‎, Sikul Memukad) of suspected Palestinian terrorists, often referred to as "targeted killing" or "targeted assassination", aimed at preventing possible future acts of violence by killing individuals who are thought to be likely to assists acts such as suicide bombings. On December 14 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that targeted killing is a legitimate form of self-defense against terrorists, and outlined several conditions for its use.[26]

House demolitionsEdit


IDF Caterpillar D9R armored bulldozer. The heavily armored D9, which was almost impervious to Palestinian weapons, demolished Palestinian houses and buildings

The IDF has historically used a strategy of demolishing houses of family members of suicide bombers, originally claiming that this was a very effective prevention tactic: would-be bombers' families sometimes prevent the bomber, sometimes even going as far as informing to the IDF, in the hope of preventing their family-member's death as well as their house being demolished. Some would-be bombers even relented at the last moment, fearing their parent's home would be demolished. Critics, including human-rights organizations,[27] contend that effectiveness does not legitimize excessive force.

During the recent conflictTemplate:Which?[citation needed], the number of houses demolished increased significantly, both as the result of an increase in the number of suicide bombers, and of more lenient criteria for house demolition. The IDF now routinely demolishes houses from which shots were fired at nearby traffic or settlements, houses harboring concealed smuggling tunnel entrances in the Gaza strip, and for other security reasons.

Another main source for house demolition is in the course of fighting. After several IDF soldiers were killed early in the conflict while searching houses containing militants, the IDF started employing a tactic of surrounding such houses, calling on the occupants (civilian and militant) to exit, and demolishing the house on top of the militants that do not surrender. This tactic, called "Noal Sir Lachatz" נוהל סיר לחץ "Pressure Pot", is now used whenever feasible (i.e., non multi-rise building that's separated from other houses). Palestinians claim several cases in which houses were demolished on top of incapacitated or deaf civilian occupants. The IDF claims that in the vast majority of cases the occupants were militants. In some heavy fighting incidents, especially in the 2002 Battle of Jenin and Operation Rainbow in Rafah 2004, heavily-armored IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozers were used to demolish houses to widen alleyways or to secure locations for IDF troops.

Palestinians and international organizations say the use of bulldozers for purposes of demolishing civilian structures is illegal. In one well-known incident, International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie was killed when she tried to obstruct a Caterpillar D9 armoured bulldozer in Rafah after being ordered several times by the IDF soldiers to exit the area of the demolition.

By the summer of 2005, after numerous houses had been destroyed, the Israeli army itself came to the conclusion that these demolitions had outgrown their usefulness and announced an end to this policy.

Code of Conduct Edit

In 1992, the IDF drafted a Code of Conduct that is a combination of international law, Israeli law, Jewish heritage and the IDF's own traditional ethical code—the IDF Spirit (Hebrew: רוח צה"ל‎, Ru'ah Tzahal).[28]

Stated values of the IDFEdit

The document defines three core values for all IDF soldiers to follow, as well as ten secondary values (the first being most important, and the others being sorted in Hebrew alphabetical order):[28]

Core values
  • Defense of the State, its Citizens and its Residents - "The IDF's goal is to defend the existence of the State of Israel, its independence and the security of the citizens and residents of the state."
  • Love of the Homeland and Loyalty to the Country - "At the core of service in the IDF stand the love of the homeland and the commitment and devotion to the State of Israel-a democratic state that serves as a national home for the Jewish People-its citizens and residents."
  • Human Dignity - "The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position."
Other values
  • Tenacity of Purpose in Performing Missions and Drive to Victory - "The IDF servicemen and women will fight and conduct themselves with courage in the face of all dangers and obstacles; They will persevere in their missions resolutely and thoughtfully even to the point of endangering their lives."
  • Responsibility - "The IDF servicemen or women will see themselves as active participants in the defense of the state, its citizens and residents. They will carry out their duties at all times with initiative, involvement and diligence with common sense and within the framework of their authority, while prepared to bear responsibility for their conduct."
  • Credibility - "The IDF servicemen and women shall present things objectively, completely and precisely, in planning, performing and reporting. They will act in such a manner that their peers and commanders can rely upon them in performing their tasks."
  • Personal Example - "The IDF servicemen and women will comport themselves as required of them, and will demand of themselves as they demand of others, out of recognition of their ability and responsibility within the military and without to serve as a deserving role model."
  • Human Life - "The IDF servicemen and women will act in a judicious and safe manner in all they do, out of recognition of the supreme value of human life. During combat they will endanger themselves and their comrades only to the extent required to carry out their mission."
  • Purity of Arms - "The soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, body, honor and property."
  • Professionalism - "The IDF servicemen and women will acquire the professional knowledge and skills required to perform their tasks, and will implement them while striving continuously to perfect their personal and collective achievements."
  • Discipline - "The IDF servicemen and women will strive to the best of their ability to fully and successfully complete all that is required of them according to orders and their spirit. IDF soldiers will be meticulous in giving only lawful orders, and shall refrain from obeying blatantly illegal orders."
  • Comradeship - "The IDF servicemen and women will act out of fraternity and devotion to their comrades, and will always go to their assistance when they need their help or depend on them, despite any danger or difficulty, even to the point of risking their lives."
  • Sense of Mission - "The IDF soldiers view their service in the IDF as a mission; They will be ready to give their all in order to defend the state, its citizens and residents. This is due to the fact that they are representatives of the IDF who act on the basis and in the framework of the authority given to them in accordance with IDF orders."

Code of Conduct against militants and Palestinian civilians Edit

Israeli soldiers on Palestine street

Two Israeli soldiers on a street in Hebron

In 2004 a team of professors, commanders and former judges, led by the holder of the Ethics chair at Tel Aviv University, Professor Asa Kasher, developed a code of conduct which emphasizes the right behavior in low intensity warfare against terrorists, where soldiers must operate within a civilian population. Reserve units and regular units alike are taught the following eleven rules of conduct, which are an addition to the more general IDF Spirit:
  1. Military action can be taken only against military targets.
  2. The use of force must be proportional.
  3. Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF.
  4. Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked.
  5. Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners.
  6. Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested.
  7. Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to oneself and one's enemy.
  8. Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal.
  9. Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and artifacts.
  10. Soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their property and vehicles.
  11. Soldiers must report all violations of this code.

Controversies Edit

Template:Disputed-section The IDF has become embroiled in a number of controversies over its human rights record, and has been accused by organisations such as Amnesty International, The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Human Rights Watch and by a number of human rights organizations based in Israel like B'Tselem, Yesh Din, Shovrim Shtika of violating the Laws of War. Its supporters dismiss such accusations as biased that they do not take into account the reality of war and threats faced by the IDF.

Sinai PeninsulaEdit

Main article: USS Liberty incident

Several specific allegations of killings of prisoners of war by members of the IDF have been made by former members with regard to incidents in the 1956 Sinai War and the 1967 Six-Day War.[29][30] On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, IDF forces fired on a U.S. Navy intelligence ship, USS Liberty. IDF forces alleged that they mistook the Liberty for an Egyptian naval vessel because the Liberty was not in international waters. There is also a dispute if the American flags were being flown on the USS Liberty. The attack resulted in the deaths of 34 U.S. servicemen and injuries to 174 others.


Main article: Sabra and Shatila massacre

In September, 1982 it is alleged by a Knesset appointed commission of inquiry that IDF forces permitted Lebanese Phalangist troops to enter the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. The Phalangist troops then carried out a massacre of Palestinian civilians. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis demonstrated against the killings and the Knesset appointed commission of inquiry, presided over by Yitzhak Kahan. The commission found (p. 105 of its report) that Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon bore personal indirect responsibility.[31][32]

Gaza Strip, West BankEdit

Main article: Incidents in the Gaza War

Palestinian news agencies, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, as well as some pro-Palestinian activists abroad,[33] call the IDF the "Israeli Occupation Forces" ("IOF") rather than "Israel Defense Forces." This attempt to reframe[34] discourse has been recommended by some Palestinian activists and rejected by others.[35]

During the 2009 strike of Gaza Strip, it is alleged that the IDF dropped white phosphorus weapon above Palestinian citizens. The United Nations announced the start of an investigation to clarify these kinds of incidents.[36][37]

In March 2009 the transcript of reports by some IDF soldiers of their time in Gaza to the military academy at Oranim College telling of orders to kill civilians and vandalising homes was published and widely reported. Some of the soldiers' testimonies tell of a high degree of intervention by military and non-military rabbis circulating propaganda depicting the operation in religious terms.[38][39][40][41] The IDF Military Advocate and the Military Police conducted a brief investigation into these claims, concluding that the testimonies were all hearsay.[42][43]

Shortly after the 2009 Israel-Gaza conflict, Haaretz reported that several IDF soldiers were ordering offensive T-shirts depicting such images as dead Palestinians, destroyed mosques and a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills,' . An IDF spokesperson responded to the accusations, stating: "Military regulations do not apply to civilian clothing" and "the designs are printed at the soldiers' private initiative, and on civilian shirts." He further comments, "the examples raised by Haaretz are not in keeping with the values of the IDF spirit, not representative of IDF life, and are in poor taste." [44] The IDF has officially condemned the T-shirts as "unacceptable".[45]

Alliances Edit

United StatesEdit

Main article: Israel-United States military relations

In 1983, the United States and Israel established a Joint Political Military Group, which convenes twice a year. Both the U.S. and Israel participate in joint military planning and combined exercises, and have collaborated on military research and weapons development. Additionally the U.S. military maintains two classified, pre-positioned War Reserve Stocks in Israel valued at $493 million.[46] Israel has the official distinction of being an American Major non-NATO ally. As a result of this, The US and Israel share the vast majority of their security and military technology.

Since 1976, Israel had been the largest annual recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. In 2004, Israel was receiving $2.16 billion a year in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants from the Department of Defense.[47] This amount has increased in recent years due to non-military economic aid being shifted to military aid.[48] A large proportion of this military aid is for the purchase of American military equipment only.


India and Israel enjoy strong military and strategic ties.[49] The alliance between India and Israel has been termed by some analysts as the new "axis in the war on terror".[50] Apart from being Israel's 2nd largest economic partner in Asia,[51] India is also the largest customer of Israeli arms in the world.[52] In 2006, annual military sales between India and Israel stood at US$900 million.[53] Israeli defense firms had the largest exhibition at the 2009 Aero India show, during which Israel offered several state-of-the art weapons to India.[54] The first major military deal between the two countries was the sale of Israeli EL/M-2075 AEW radars to the Indian Air Force in 2004.[55] In March 2009, India and Israel signed a US$1.4 billion deal under which Israel would sell India an advanced air-defense system.[56] India and Israel have also embarked on extensive space cooperation. In 2008, India's ISRO launched Israel's most technologically-advanced spy satellite TecSAR.[57] In 2009, India reportedly developed a high-tech spy satellite RISAT-2 with significant assistance from Israel.[58] The satellite was successfully launched by India in April 2009.[59]

Many analysts saw the 2008 Mumbai attacks an attack on the growing India-Israel partnership.[60] In the past, India and Israel have held numerous joint anti-terror training exercises[61] and it was also reported that in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, Israel was helping India launch anti-terror raids inside Pakistani territory.[62]


Germany is a prime supplier of arms to Israel, including Dolphin submarines. The military co-operation has been discrete but mutually profitable: Israeli intelligence, for example, sent captured Warsaw Pact armour to West Germany to be analysed. The results aided the German development of an anti-tank system.[63]

In 2008, it was revealed that Germany and Israel had been jointly developing a nuclear warning system, dubbed Operation Bluebird.[64]

Gallery of the Israeli Defense ForcesEdit

See alsoEdit

References and footnotesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Institute for National Security Studies", chapter Israel, June 17, 2009.
  2. 51.6 mld NIS
  3. "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1965 (in Hebrew)". 
  4. Mahler, Gregory S. (1990). Israel After Begin. SUNY Press. p. 45. ISBN 079140367X. 
  5. Template:Cite encyclopedia Template:He icon
  6. 7.0 7.1 Ostfeld, Zehava (1994). ed. Shoshana Shiftel. ed. An Army is Born (Vol. 1). Israel Ministry of Defense. pp. 113–116. ISBN 965-05-0695-0.  Template:He icon
  7. IDF Website.
  8. Seitz, Charmaine. "Israel's Defense Budget: The Business Side of War,"". The Jerusalem Fund. Retrieved on 2008-05-30. 
  9. "Military spending-Arming up". The Economist. Retrieved on 2009-06-11. 
  10. Haaretz. Defense budget to grow, education spending to shrink by Moti Bassok. Accessed: 30 September 2009.
  11. Haaretz. Defense budget to grow, education spending to shrink by Moti Bassok. Accessed: 30 September 2009.
  12. "A Woman of Valor", Bar Ben-Ari, Israel Defense Forces, August 1, 2007
  13. "SPOTLIGHT ON ISRAEL: The Israel Defense Forces" Dr. Netanel Lorch, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 31, 1997
  14. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Gelfond Feldinger, Lauren Gelfond (2008-09-21). "Skirting history". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved on 2008-09-30. 
  15. 16.0 16.1 "First woman pilot in Israeli Air Force dies", The Jewish news weekly of Northern California, June 2, 2005. Accessed Jan 20, 2008.
  16. Azoulay, Yuval "Israel Air Force appoints first female deputy squadron commander", Haaretz, November 28, 2007. Accessed 2008-01-20.
  17. IDF "human resources" site Template:He icon
  18. Derfner, Larry. "Covenant of blood". The Jerusalem Post, January 15, 2009.
  19. IDF Human Resources site, Template:He icon
  20. Eichner, Itamar (2007-02-08). "Follow Israel's example on gays in the military, US study says". Ynetnews.,7340,L-3362505,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-09-30. 
  21. Jpost: Navy mulls building ships locally
  22. Navy Drops US Warship for Made-in-Israel Option
  23. IDF desk - Doctrine, Mission
  24. IDF desf - Main Doctrine
  25. Summary of Israeli Supreme Court Ruling on Targeted Killings Dec 14 2006
  26. Human Rights Watch - Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip
  27. 28.0 28.1 "Ethics - The IDF Spirit". IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Retrieved on 2008-12-14. 
  28. "A Soldier's Confession", Time magazine, August 28, 1995
  29. "Opening Grave Wounds", Time magazine, October 2, 1995
  30. "We have found, as has been detailed in this report, that the Minister of Defence bears personal responsibility. In our opinion, it is fitting that the Minister of Defence draw the appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office - and if necessary, that the Prime Minister consider whether he should exercise his authority under Section 21 A(a) of the Basic Law: the Government, according to which 'the Prime Minister may, after informing the Cabinet of his intention to do so, remove a minister from office.'"
  31. The Beirut Massacre: the Complete Kahan Commission Report. Karz-Cohl, Princeton, NJ, 1983. (ISBN 0-943828-55-4)
  32. 'Suggested language for talking about the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.' Palestine Media Watch
  33. Mor, Ben D. 'Strategic Self-Preservation in Public Diplomacy: The Israeli-Palestinian Case.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago 04-2003
  34. Finkelstein, Norman. 'How can we help the Palestinian cause?' Workshop hosted by The Federation of Student Islamic Societies at Birkbeck College, University of London. 2008-01-23
    Quote: "It is the IDF, and it's also illegally occupying Gaza, it's illegally invading them. But don't use terminology which is going to make it seem as if you're a propagandist. Use the terminology that everybody else uses. [...] You should insist on [the term "occupation."] But I would not use 'IOF.' It's 'IDF.' We don't have to become propagandists because we could just use the mainstream [term] and still succeed."
  35. Gaza's burn victims add to pressure on army over phosphorus
  36. UN's Ban tells Security Council of Gaza inquiry
  37. BBC: Israel troops admit Gaza abuses
  38. Ynetnews: Soldiers say IDF immoral in Gaza
  39. Haaretz: IDF in Gaza: Killing civilians, vandalism, and lax rules of engagement
  40. Haaretz: 'Shooting and crying'
  41. [1]
  42. [2]
  43. "Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques - IDF fashion 2009". Haaretz. 2009-03-20. 
  44. "Israel Military condemns soldiers' shocking T-shirts". The Independent. 2009-03-22. 
  45. Global "31st Munitions Squadron (31st MUNS)". Retrieved on 2007-10-10. 
  46. US House of Representatives. "Summary and Analysis of the President's 2004 Budget". Retrieved on 2007-10-10. 
  47. US State Department. "Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations". Retrieved on 2007-10-10. 
  48. Israel & India: New Allies
  49. US plays matchmaker to India, Israel
  50. India-Israel Commercial Relations
  51. Israel largest defence supplier to India: report
  52. [Israel arms sales to India top USD 900 million a year,7340,L-3310835,00.html]
  53. Israeli Exhibit Among Largest at Show
  54. India, Israel ink the Phalcon deal
  55. India, Israel sign $1.4 bn deal on air defence system
  56. India and Israel Eye Iran
  57. India to launch Israel-backed satellite
  58. Spy satellite RISAT takes off from Sriharikota
  59. Some see Mumbai terrorism as an attack on India-Israel ties
  60. India, Israel likely to hold joint anti-terror training exercises
  61. Israeli experts help India prepare commando raids into Pakistan
  62. Israel welcomes new Germany to a celebration of its 60th birthday
  63. Lappin, Yaakov (2008-11-17). "Israel, Germany develop nuclear warning system". The Jerusalem Post ( Retrieved on 2009-01-25. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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