Israel Defense Forces (IDF; Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה
לְיִשְׂרָאֵל Tsva ha-Hagana le-Yisra'el, lit.
"The Army of Defense for Israel"; Arabic: جيش الدفاع
الإسرائيلي), commonly known in
Israel by the Hebrew
acronym Tzahal (צה״ל), are the military forces of the State of
Israel. They consist of 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
Lieutenant general (Rav Aluf)
Gadi Eizenkot has served as
Chief of Staff since 2015.
An order from Defense Minister
David Ben-Gurion on 26 May 1948
officially set up the
Israel Defense Forces as a conscript army formed
out of the paramilitary group Haganah, incorporating the militant
Irgun and Lehi. The IDF served as Israel's armed forces in all
the country's major military operations—including the 1948 War of
Independence, 1951–1956 Retribution operations, 1956 Sinai War,
1964–1967 War over Water, 1967 Six-Day War, 1967–1970 War of
Attrition, 1968 Battle of Karameh, 1973 Operation Spring of Youth,
1973 Yom Kippur War, 1976 Operation Entebbe, 1978 Operation Litani,
Lebanon War, 1982–2000 South
Lebanon conflict, 1987–1993
First Intifada, 2000–2005 Second Intifada, 2002 Operation Defensive
Lebanon War, 2008–2009 Operation Cast Lead, 2012
Operation Pillar of Defense, and 2014 Operation Protective Edge. The
number of wars and border conflicts in which the IDF has been involved
in its short history makes it one of the most battle-trained armed
forces in the world. While originally the IDF operated on three
Syria in the north,
the east, and
Egypt in the south—after the 1979 Egyptian–Israeli
Peace Treaty, it has concentrated its activities in southern Lebanon
and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and the Second
Israel Defense Forces differs from most armed forces in the world
in many ways. Differences include the mandatory conscription of women
and its structure, which emphasizes close relations between the army,
navy, and air force. Since its founding, the IDF has been specifically
designed to match Israel's unique security situation. The IDF is one
of Israeli society's most prominent institutions, influencing the
country's economy, culture and political scene. In 1965, the Israel
Defense Forces was awarded the
Israel Prize for its contribution to
education. 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,
Achzarit armoured personnel carrier, high
tech weapons systems, the
Iron Dome missile defense system, Trophy
active protection system for vehicles, and the Galil and
Uzi submachine gun was invented in
Israel and used by the
IDF until December 2003, ending a service that began in 1954. Since
1967, the IDF has had close military relations with the United
States, including development cooperation, such as on the F-15I
THEL laser defense system, and the Arrow missile defense system.
Israel Defense Forces are believed to have had an operational
nuclear weapons capability since 1967, possibly possessing between 80
and 400 nuclear weapons, with delivery systems forming a nuclear
triad, of plane launched-missiles, Jericho III intercontinental
ballistic missiles and submarine launched cruise missiles.
3.1.1 Regional commands
3.1.3 Administrative branches
3.1.4 Other bodies
3.3 Ranks, uniforms and insignia
4.1 Military service routes
Special service routes
4.2.1 Regular service
4.2.2 Permanent service
4.2.3 Reserve service
4.3 Non-IDF service
5 Minorities in the IDF
Druze and Circassians
5.2 Bedouins and Israeli Arabs
5.3 Ethiopian Jews
5.5 LGBT people
5.6 Deaf and hard-of-hearing people
6 Overseas volunteers
7.2 Main doctrine
7.2.1 Basic points
7.2.2 Prepare for defense
7.2.3 Move to counterattack
7.3 Code of conduct
7.3.1 Stated values of the IDF
7.3.2 Military ethics of fighting terror
8 Command and control
10 Weapons and equipment
10.1 Military equipment
10.2 Main developments
12 Foreign military relations
12.2 United States
12.5 United Kingdom
12.12 Other countries
14 See also
14.1 Related bodies
14.1.1 Security forces
14.1.2 Defense industry of Israel
14.1.3 Related subjects
15 References and footnotes
16 Further reading
17 External links
The Israeli cabinet ratified the name "
Israel Defense Forces" (Hebrew:
צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל), Tzva
HaHagana LeYisra'el, literally "army for the defense of Israel," on 26
May 1948. The other main contender was Tzva Yisra'el (Hebrew:
צְבָא יִשְׂרָאֵל). The name was chosen because it
conveyed the idea that the army's role was defense, and because it
incorporated the name Haganah, the pre-state defensive organization
upon which the new army was based. Among the primary opponents of
the name were Minister
Haim-Moshe Shapira and the
Hatzohar party, both
in favor of Tzva Yisra'el.
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Ariel Sharon (left), during the Battle of Abu-Ageila, June
Main articles: History of the
Israel Defense Forces and List of the
Israel Defense Forces operations
The IDF traces its roots to Jewish paramilitary organizations in the
New Yishuv, starting with the
Second Aliyah (1904 to 1914). The
first such organization was Bar-Giora, founded in September 1907.
Bar-Giora was transformed into
Hashomer in April 1909, which operated
British Mandate of Palestine
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.
Zion Mule Corps
Zion Mule Corps and the Jewish Legion, both part of the British
Army of World War I, would further bolster the
Yishuv with military
experience and manpower, forming the basis for later paramilitary
forces. After the
1920 Palestine riots
1920 Palestine riots against Jews in April 1920, the
Yishuv leadership realised the need for a nationwide underground
defense organization, and the
Haganah was founded in June of the same
Haganah became a full-scale defense force after the
1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine
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
Yishuv participated in the British
war effort, culminating in the formation of the Jewish Brigade. These
would eventually form the backbone of the
Israel Defense Forces, and
provide it with its initial manpower and doctrine.
Following Israel's Declaration of Independence, Prime Minister and
David Ben-Gurion issued an order for the formation of
Israel Defense Forces on 26 May 1948. Although Ben-Gurion had no
legal authority to issue such an order, the order was made legal by
the cabinet on 31 May. The same order called for the disbandment of
all other Jewish armed forces. The two other Jewish underground
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 Altalena Affair, a
confrontation surrounding weapons purchased by the
Irgun resulting in
a standoff between
Irgun members and the newly created IDF. The affair
came to an end when Altalena, the ship carrying the arms, was shelled
by the IDF. Following the affair, all independent
Irgun and Lehi units
were either disbanded or merged into the IDF. The Palmach, a leading
component of the Haganah, also joined the IDF with provisions, and Ben
Gurion responded by disbanding its staff in 1949, after which many
Palmach officers retired, notably its first commander, Yitzhak
The new army organized itself when the 1947–48 Civil War in
Mandatory Palestine escalated into the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, which
saw neighbouring Arab states attack. Twelve infantry and armored
brigades formed: Golani, Carmeli, Alexandroni, Kiryati, Givati,
Etzioni, the 7th, and 8th armored brigades, Oded, Harel, Yiftach, and
Negev. 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.
Operation Gazelle, Israel's ground maneuver, encircles the Egyptian
Third Army, October 1973
Immediately after the 1948 war, the Israel-Palestinian conflict
shifted to a low intensity conflict between the IDF and Palestinian
fedayeen. In the 1956 Suez Crisis, the IDF's first serious test of
strength after 1949, the new army captured the
Sinai Peninsula from
Egypt, which was later returned. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel
conquered the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip,
West Bank (including East
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
Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Jordan,
culminating in the Battle of Karameh.
The surprise of the
Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War and its aftermath completely
changed the IDF's procedures and approach to warfare. Organizational
changes were made[by whom?] 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. An example of the latter was the successful 1976
Operation Entebbe commando raid to free hijacked airline passengers
being held captive in Uganda. During this era, the IDF also mounted a
successful bombing mission in
Iraq to destroy its nuclear reactor. 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, the Gaza War, Operation
Pillar of Defense, and Operation Protective Edge, causing the IDF to
change many of its values and publish the IDF Spirit. The Lebanese
Hezbollah has also been a growing threat,
against which the IDF fought an asymmetric conflict between 1982 and
2000, as well as a full-scale war in 2006.
IDF Kirya Compound, Tel Aviv
All branches of the IDF answer 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
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 on rare
occasions even five) years. The current chief of staff is Gadi
Eizenkot. He replaced
Benny Gantz in 2015.
The IDF includes the following bodies (those whose respective heads
are members of the General Staff are in bold):
Structure of the
Israel Defense Forces (click to enlarge)
Home Front Command
7th Sa'ar Armored Brigade
188th Barak Armored Brigade
401st Ikvot HaBarzel Armored Brigade
460th Sons of Light Armored Brigade
Combat Engineering Corps
Combat Intelligence Collection Corps
Air and Space Arm
Air Defense Network
The Dado Center for Interdisciplinary Military Studies
Military Police Corps
Education and Youth Corps
Women's Affairs advisor
Manpower Planning and Administration brigade
Chief Reserve Officer
Military Courts / Tribunals Unit
Military Court / Tribunal
Military Advocate General
Military Court of Appeals
Computer Service Directorate
Teleprocessing and Signal Corps (C4I Corps)
Technological and Logistics Directorate
Maintenance, Supply and Logistics Corps
Tactical Command College
Command and Staff College
National Security College
Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories
Financial Advisor to the Chief of Staff
Military Secretary to the Prime Minister
Director-general of the Ministry of Defense
Defense Establishment Comptroller Unit
Administration for the Development of Weapons and the Technological
Engineering and Construction Department of the Ministry of Defense
("Fire Team Leader")
Corporal or Sergeant
Air Force Squadron
Captain or Major
Squad / Section
("Squad / Section Leader")
Air Forces Wing
Mifaked Machlekah ("Platoon Commander")
Air Force Command
Mifaked Plugah ("Company Commander")
Captain or Major
Captain or Major
Ranks, uniforms and insignia
Israel Defense Forces ranks
Israeli officers of the Paratrooper Battalion 890 in 1955 with Moshe
Dayan (standing, third from the left).
Ariel Sharon is standing,
second from the left and commando
Meir Har Zion
Meir Har Zion is standing furthest
Soldiers of the
Golani Brigade on the Golan Heights
Soldiers of the "Yanshuf" (Owl) Battalion, which specializes in CBRN
Unlike most militaries, the IDF uses the same rank names in all corps,
including the air force and navy. For ground forces' officers, rank
insignia are brass on a red background; for the air force, silver on a
blue background; and for the navy, the standard gold worn on the
sleeve. Officer insignia are worn on epaulets on top of both
shoulders. Insignia distinctive to each service are worn on the cap
(see fig. 15).
Alpinist Unit dispatched to Mount Hermon
Israeli soldiers coming back from the Second
Lebanon war, armed with
M4 Carbine and the
IMI Negev light machinegun
Israeli soldiers during Operation Brothers' Keeper (2014) armed with
Enlisted grades wear rank insignia on the sleeve, halfway between the
shoulder and the elbow. For the army and air force, the insignia are
white with blue interwoven threads backed with the appropriate corps
color. Navy personnel wear gold-colored rank insignia sewn on navy
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 1990s the proliferating ranks
of sergeant major became devalued, and now all professional
non-commissioned officer 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
Conscripts (Hogrim) (
Conscript ranks may be gained purely on time
Corporal (Rav Turai)
Sergeant (Samal Rishon)
Warrant Officers (Nagadim)
Sergeant First Class (Rav Samal)
Sergeant (Rav Samal Rishon)
Major (Rav Samal Mitkadem)
Warrant Officer (Rav Samal Bakhir)
Warrant Officer (Rav Nagad Mishneh)
Warrant Officer (Rav Nagad)
Academic officers (Ktzinim Akadema'im)
Professional Academic Officer (Katzin Miktzo'i Akadema'i)
Senior Academic Officer (Katzin Akadema'i Bakhir)
Second Lieutenant (Segen Mishneh) [1951–Present]
Major (Rav Seren)
Colonel (Sgan Aluf)
Aluf Mishneh) [1950–Present]
Brigadier General (Tat Aluf) [1968–Present]
Major General (Aluf) [1948–Present]
Lieutenant General (Rav Aluf)
IDF uniform colours
Female IDF corporal with the Spike missile launcher, wearing the
golden-olive Madei Alef uniform
Israel Defense Forces has several types of uniforms:
Service dress (מדי אלף Madei Alef – Uniform "A") – the
everyday uniform, worn by enlisted soldiers.
Field dress ( מדי ב Madei Bet – Uniform "B") – worn into
combat, training, work on base.
The first two resemble each other but the Madei Alef is made of higher
quality materials in a golden-olive while the madei bet is in olive
drab. The dress uniforms may also exhibit a surface
Officers / Ceremonial dress (מדי שרד madei srad) – worn
by officers, or during special events/ceremonies.
Dress uniform and mess dress – worn only abroad. There are
several dress uniforms depending on the season and the branch.
The service uniform for all ground forces personnel is olive green;
navy and air force uniforms are beige (tan). The uniforms consist of a
two-pocket shirt, combat trousers, sweater, jacket or blouse, and
shoes or boots. The navy also has an all white dress uniform. The
green fatigues are the same for winter and summer and heavy winter
gear is issued as needed. Women's dress parallels the men's but may
substitute a skirt for the trousers.
IDF female infantry soldiers
Headgear included a service cap for dress and semi-dress and a field
cap or bush hat worn with fatigues. IDF personnel generally wear
berets in lieu of the service cap and there are many beret colors
issued to IDF personnel. Paratroopers are issued a maroon beret,
Golani brown, Givati purple, Nahal lime green,
Kfir camouflage, Combat
Engineers gray, navy blue for IDF Naval and dark grey for IDF Air
Force personnel. Other beret colors are: black for armored corps,
turquoise for artillery personnel; olive drab for infantry; grey for
combat engineers. For all other army personnel, except combat units,
the beret for men was green and for women, black. Women in the navy
wore a black beret with gold insignia. Males in the navy once wore a
blue/black beret but replaced it with the US Navy's sailor cap.
Some corps or units have small variations in their uniforms –
for instance, military policemen wear a white belt and police hat,
Naval personnel have dress whites for parades, paratroopers are issued
a four pocket tunic (yarkit) meant to be worn untucked with a pistol
belt cinched tight around the waist over the shirt. The IDF Air Corps
has a dress uniform consisting of a pale blue shirt with dark blue
trousers. Similarly, while most IDF soldiers are issued black leather
boots, certain units issue reddish-brown leather boots for historical
reasons — the paratroopers, combat medics, Nahal and Kfir
Brigades, as well as some SF units (
Sayeret Matkal, Oketz, Duvdevan,
Maglan, and the Counter-Terror School). Women were also formerly
issued sandals, but this practice has ceased.
Israel Defense Forces insignia
IDF soldiers have three types of insignia (other than rank insignia)
which identify their corps, specific unit, and position.
A pin attached to the beret identifies a soldier's corps. 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 (tironut)
do not have a 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 post
they're stationed in belongs. Individual units are identified by a
shoulder tag attached to the left 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
While one cannot always identify the position/job of a soldier, 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.
163rd IAF Flight Course Graduates
IAF Flight academy graduates receive their ranks as air force officers
Military service routes
The military service is held in three different tracks:
Regular service (שירות חובה): mandatory military service
which is held according to the Israeli security service law.
Permanent service (שירות קבע): military service which is held
as part of a contractual agreement between the IDF and the permanent
Reserve service (שירות מילואים): a military service in
which citizens are called for active duty of at most a month every
year (in accordance with the Reserve Service Law), for training and
ongoing military activities and especially for the purpose of
increasing the military forces in case of a war.
Sometimes the IDF would also hold pre-military courses (קורס
קדם צבאי or קד"צ) for soon-to-be regular service soldiers.
Special service routes
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Shoher (שוחר), a person enrolled in pre-military studies (high
school, technical college up to engineering degree, some of the
קד"ץ courses) – after completing the twelfth study year will do a
two-month boot-camp and, if allowed, enter a program of education to
qualify as a practical engineer, with at least two weeks of training
following each study year. Successful candidates will continue for an
engineering bachelor degree. The
Shoher will be enrolled into regular
service if he dropped out before finished their P.A. education or in
any finishing education stage (after high school, after P.A. or after
receiving the bachelor's degree). Another example of a
Shoher is a
programmer that is under the programming course of School for Computer
Professions (Hebrew: בית הספר למקצועות המחשב,
abbr. Basmach Hebrew: בסמ"ח). The course usually lasts about
six months, and at its peak, the
Shoher receives a programmer badge.
Shoher will have the ability to serve in R&D units without
having the engineering credentials if an officer finds him as worthy,
and could recommend him for the R&D units. R&D units have the
option to provide Hebrew: על תקן מהנדס certificate for
few selected personal to allow the person to work on life-saving or
flight equipment without having an Eng. license (the certificate is
not valid for medical R&D machinery). The certificate is provided
by the highest in command in the research field (as an example for the
Air Force it is the Chief of Equipment Group).
Civilian working for the IDF (Hebrew: אזרח עובד צה"ל), a
civilian working for the military.
Manpower Directorate (Hebrew: אגף משאבי
אנוש) at the
Israeli General Staff
Israeli General Staff is the body which
coordinates and assembles activities related to the control over human
resources and its placement.
Conscription in Israel
IDF Recruits trying on uniforms for the first time
Nahal Brigade soldiers on their regular service
National military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over
the age of 18, although Arab (but not Druze) citizens are exempted if
they so please, and other exceptions may be made on religious,
physical or psychological grounds (see Profile 21). The Tal law, which
exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews from service, has been the subject of
several court cases as well as considerable legislative controversy.
Until the draft of July 2015, men served three years in the IDF. Men
drafted as of July 2015 and later will serve two years and eight
months (32 months), with some roles requiring an additional four
months of Permanent service. Women serve two years. The IDF women who
volunteer for several combat positions often serve for three years,
due to the longer period of training. Women in other positions, such
as programmers, who also require lengthy training time, may also serve
Some distinguished recruits are selected to be trained in order to
eventually become members of special forces units. Every brigade in
the IDF has its own special force branch.
Career soldiers are paid on average NIS 23,000 a month, fifty times
the NIS 460 paid to conscripts.
In 1998–2000, only about 9% of those who refused to serve in the
Israeli military were granted exemption.
Permanent service is designed for soldiers who choose to continue
serving in the army after their regular service, for a short or long
period, and in many cases making the military their career. Permanent
service usually begins immediately after the mandatory Regular service
period, but there are also soldiers who get released from military at
the end of the mandatory Regular service period and who get recruited
back to the military as Permanent service soldiers in a later period.
Permanent service is based on a contractual agreement between the IDF
and the permanent position holder. The service contract defines how
long the soldier's service would be, and towards the end of the
contract period a discussion may rise on the extension of the
soldier's service duration. Many times, regular service soldiers are
required to commit to a permanent service after the mandatory Regular
service period, in exchange for assigning them in military positions
which require a long training period.
In exchange for the Permanent service, the Permanent service soldiers
receive full wages, and when serving for a long period as a permanent
service soldier, they are also entitled for a pension from the army.
This right is given to the Permanent service soldiers in a relatively
early stage of their life in comparison to the rest of the Israeli
Main article: Reserve duty (Israel)
IDF Reservists train in the Golan Heights
After personnel complete their regular service, they are either
granted permanent exemption from military service, or assigned a
position in the reserve forces. There is no distinction between
assignment of men or women to reserve service.
The IDF may call up reservists for:
reserve service of up to one month every three years, until the age of
40 (enlisted) or 45 (officers). Reservists may volunteer after this
age, with approval of the Manpower Directorate.
immediate active duty in wartime.
Israelis who served in the IDF and are under the age of 40, unless
otherwise exempt, are eligible for reserve duty. However, only those
who completed at least 20 days of reserve duty within the past three
years are considered active reservists.
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
Although still available for call-up in times of crisis, most Israeli
men, and virtually all women, do not actually perform reserve service
in any given year. In 2015, only 26% of the population eligible for
reserve duty held an active reserve status. The IDF has reduced the
amount of reserve soldiers called up to improve efficiency and cut
costs. 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 2014 Operation Protective Edge) exemptions are
rarely requested or exercised; units generally achieve recruitment
rates above those considered fully manned.
Israel Border Police (Magav) is responsible for security in urban
or rural areas
Legislation (approved in April 2008) has reformed the reserve service,
lowering the maximum service age to 40 for enlisted, and 45 for
officers, designating it as an emergency and security force
(disallowing routine duties that may be carried out by the active
forces), as well as many other changes to the structure (although the
Defense Minister can suspend any portion of it at any time for
security reasons). The age threshold for many reservists whose
positions are listed and updated yearly by the
Knesset through the
Occupations executive order is fixed at 45 or 49, depending on their
military occupation and position.
Other than the National Service (Sherut Leumi), IDF conscripts may
serve in bodies other than the IDF in a number of ways.
The combat option is
Israel Border Police (Magav – the exact
Hebrew means "border guard") service, part of the
Israel Police. Some soldiers complete their IDF combat training and
later undergo additional counter 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 though to a lower
capacity. They are also responsible for security in heavy urban areas
Jerusalem and security and crime fighting in rural areas.
Non-combat services include the Mandatory Police Service (Shaham)
program, where youth serve in the Israeli Police,
Service, or other wings of the
Israeli Security Forces
Israeli Security Forces instead of the
regular army service.
Main article: Women in the
Israel Defense Forces
The unisex Caracal Battalion, which serves in routine security
IDF shooting instructors, a common role for women in the IDF
IDF Warrant Officers with the M16 and IWI X95; two common assault
rifles of the IDF.
Israel is one of only a few nations that conscript women or deploy
them in combat roles, although in practice, women can avoid
conscription through a religious exemption and over a third of Israeli
women do so. As of 2010, 88% of all roles in the IDF are open to
female candidates. and women could be found in 69% of all IDF
According to the IDF, 535 female Israeli soldiers were killed in
combat operations in the period 1962–2016, and dozens before
then. The IDF says that fewer than 4 percent of women are in combat
positions. Rather, they are concentrated in "combat-support" positions
which command a lower compensation and status than combat
Civilian pilot and aeronautical engineer Alice Miller successfully
petitioned the High Court of Justice to take the Israeli Air Force
pilot training exams, after being rejected on grounds of gender.
Though president Ezer Weizman, a former IAF commander, told Miller
that she would be better off staying home and darning socks, the court
eventually ruled in 1996 that the IAF could not exclude qualified
women from pilot training. Even though Miller would not pass the
exams, the ruling was a watershed, opening doors for women in new IDF
roles. Female legislators took advantage of the momentum to draft a
bill allowing women to volunteer for any position, if they could
In 2000 the Equality amendment to the Military Service law stated that
the right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the
right of men. A study of women in the IDF from 2002 to 2005 found
that women often exhibit "superior skills" in discipline, motivation
and marksmanship. However, the study noted that women still face
gender discrimination in the IDF. Women have served in the
military since before the founding of the state of
Israel in 1948.
Women started to enter combat support and light combat roles in a few
areas, including the Artillery Corps, infantry units and armored
divisions. A few platoons named Karakal were formed for men and women
to serve together in light infantry. By 2000 Karakal became a
full-fledged battalion, with a second mixed-gender battalion, Lions of
Jordan (אריות הירדן, Arayot Ha-Yarden) formed in 2015.
Many women also joined the Border Police.
In June 2011 Maj. General
Orna Barbivai became the first female major
general in the IDF, replacing head of the directorate Maj. General Avi
Zamir. Barbivai stated, "I am proud to be the first woman to become a
major general and to be part of an organization in which equality is a
central principle. Ninety percent of jobs in the IDF are open to women
and I am sure that there are other women who will continue to break
In 2013 the IDF announced they would, for the first time, allow a
(MTF) transgender woman to serve in the army as a female soldier.
Elana Sztokman notes it would be "difficult to claim that women are
equals in the IDF". "And tellingly, there is only one female general
in the entire IDF," she adds. In 2012 religious soldiers claimed
they were promised they would not have to listen to women sing or
lecture, but IAF Chief Rabbi Moshe Raved resigned because male
religious soldiers were being required to do so. In January 2015
three women IDF singers performed in one of the IDF's units. The
performance was first disrupted by fifteen religious soldiers, who
left in protest and then the Master
Sergeant forced the women to end
the performance because it was disturbing the religious soldiers. An
IDF spokesperson announced an investigation of the incident: "We are
aware of the incident and already began examining it. The exclusion of
woman is not consistent with the values of the IDF." Defense
Moshe Ya'alon has also arranged for women to be excluded from
recruitment centers catering to religious males. As the IDF
recruits more religious soldiers, the rights of male religious
soldiers and of women in the IDF come into conflict. Brig. Gen. Zeev
Lehrer, who served on the chief of staff's panel of the integration of
women, noted "There is a clear process of 'religionization' in the
army, and the story of the women is a central piece of it. There are
very strong pressures at work to halt the process of integrating women
into the army, and they are coming from the direction of
Sex segregation is allowed in the IDF, which reached
what it considers a "new milestone" in 2006, creating the first
company of soldiers segregated in an all female unit, the Nachshol
Hebrew for "giant wave") Reconnaissance Company. "We are the only
unit in the world made up entirely of female combat soldiers," said
Nachshol Company Commander Cpt. Dana Ben-Ezra. "Our effectiveness and
the dividends we earn are the factors by which we are measured, not
Minorities in the IDF
Non-Jewish minorities tended to serve in one of several special units:
the Minorities Unit, also known as Unit 300; the
Unit; and the Trackers Unit, composed mostly of
Negev Bedouins. In
1982 the IDF general staff decided to integrate the armed forces by
opening up other units to minorities, while placing some Jewish
conscripts in the Minorities Unit. Until 1988 the intelligence corps
and the air force remained closed to minorities.
Druze and Circassians
Druze commander of the IDF Herev battalion
Israel has a majority of Jewish soldiers, all citizens
including large numbers of
Druze and Circassian men are subject to
mandatory conscription. Originally, they served in the framework
of a special unit called "The Minorities' Unit", which operated until
2015 in the form of the independent Herev ("Sword") 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 (like sayeret units). The army has
Druze soldiers to regular combat units and
promoted them to higher ranks from which they had been previously
excluded. In 2015
Gadi Eizenkot ordered the unit's closure in
order to assimilate the
Druze soldiers no differently than Jewish
soldiers, as part of an ongoing reorganization of the army. Several
Druze officers reached ranks as high as
Major General, and many
received commendations for distinguished service. In proportion to
their numbers, the
Druze people achieve much
higher—documented—levels in the Israeli army than other soldiers.
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.
Druze aircraft navigator completed his training course in
2005; like all air force pilots, his identity is not disclosed. During
the Israeli War of Independence, many
Druze who had initially sided
with the Arabs deserted their ranks to either return to their villages
or side with
Israel in various capacities.
Since the late 1970s the
Druze Initiative Committee, centered at the
Beit Jan and linked to the Israeli Communist Party, has
campaigned to abolish
Military service is a tradition among some of the
with most opposition in
Druze communities of the Golan Heights; 83
Druze boys serve in the army, according to the IDF's
statistics. According to the Israeli army in 2010, 369 Druze
soldiers had been killed in combat operations since 1948.
Bedouins and Israeli Arabs
Bedouin soldiers in 1949
Israeli Arab soldiers, serving in the
Galilee in 1978
Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, visiting an Arab school
By law, all Israeli citizens are subject to conscription. The Defense
Minister has 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 of offering 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 if older than 18.
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 result of their military service; of them the most famous is a
Colonel Abd el-Majid Hidr (also known as
Amos Yarkoni), who received the Order of Distinction. Vahid el Huzil
was the first
Bedouin to be a battalion commander.
Until the second term of
Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister
(1992–1995), 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 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.
Rather than perform army service,
Israeli Arab youths have the option
to volunteer to national service and receive benefits similar to those
received by discharged soldiers. The volunteers are generally
allocated to Arab populations, where they assist with social and
community matters. As of 2010[update] 1,473 Arabs were volunteering
for national service. According to sources in the national service
administration, Arab leaders are counseling youths to refrain from
performing services to the state. According to a National Service
official, "For years the Arab leadership has demanded, justifiably,
benefits for Arab youths similar to those received by discharged
soldiers. Now, when this opportunity is available, it is precisely
these leaders who reject the state's call to come and do the service,
and receive these benefits".
Although Arabs are not obliged to serve in IDF, any Arab can
volunteer. In 2008 a Muslim Arab woman was serving as a medic with
Elinor Joseph from
Haifa became the first female Arab combat
soldier for IDF. Joseph said "there was a Katyusha [rocket] that fell
near my house and also hurt Arabs. If someone would tell me that
serving in the IDF means killing Arabs, I remind them that Arabs also
Other Arab-Muslim officers who have served in the IDF are Second
Lieutenant Hisham Abu Varia and
Major Ala Wahib, the highest
ranking Muslim officer in the IDF in 2013.
An Ethiopian-Jewish soldier
In October 2012 the IDF promoted Mona Abdo to become the first female
Christian Arab to the rank of combat commander. Abdo had voluntarily
enlisted in the IDF, which her family had encouraged, and transferred
from the Ordnance Corps to the Caracal Battalion, a mixed-gender unit
with both Jewish and Arab soldiers.
In 2014 an increase of Israeli Christian Arabs joining the army was
The IDF carried out extended missions in
Ethiopia and neighboring
states, whose purpose was to protect
Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) and
to help their immigration to Israel. The IDF adopted policies and
special activities for absorption and integration of Ethiopian
immigrant soldiers, reported to have much improved the achievements
and integration of those soldiers in the army, and Israeli society in
general. Statistical research showed that the Ethiopian
soldiers are esteemed as excellent soldiers and many aspire to be
recruited to combat units.
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); many avoid conscription altogether.
This special arrangement is called Torato Omanuto, and has given rise
to tensions between the Israeli religious and secular communities.
While options exist for Haredim to serve in the IDF in an atmosphere
accommodating to their religious convictions, most Haredim do not
choose to serve in the IDF.
Haredi males have the option of serving in the 97th "Netzah Yehuda"
Infantry Battalion. This unit is a standard IDF infantry battalion
focused on the
Jenin region. To facilitate Haredi soldiers to serve,
the Netzah Yehuda military bases follow the standards of Jewish
dietary laws; the only women permitted on these bases are wives of
soldiers and officers. Additionally, some Haredim serve in the IDF via
Hesder system, principally designed for the Religious Zionist
sector; it is a 5-year program which includes 2 years of religious
studies, 1½ years of military service and 1½ years of religious
studies during which the soldiers can be recalled to active duty at
any moment. Haredi soldiers may join other units of the IDF, but
The IDF has identified[when?] a gap of hundreds of soldiers in their
technical units that might be filled by the Haredi. The IAF is
currently using defense contractors to fill in the gaps and continue
Although the IDF claims it will not discriminate against women, it is
offering Haredim "women free and secular free" recruitment centers.
Moshe Ya'alon expressed his willingness to relax
regulations to meet the demands of ultra-Orthodox rabbis. Regulations
regarding gender equality had already been relaxed so that Haredim
could be assured that men would not receive physical exams from female
Further information: Sexual orientation and military service
Israel is one of 24 nations that allow openly gay individuals to serve
in the military. Since the early 1990s, sexual identity presents no
formal barrier in terms of soldiers' military specialization or
eligibility for promotion.
Until the 1980s the IDF tended to discharge soldiers who were openly
gay. In 1983 the IDF permitted homosexuals to serve, but banned them
from intelligence and top-secret positions. A decade later, Professor
Uzi Even, an IDF reserves officer and chairman of Tel Aviv
University's Chemistry Department, revealed that his rank had been
revoked and that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics
in military intelligence, solely because of his sexual orientation.
His testimony to the
Knesset in 1993 raised a political storm, forcing
the IDF to remove such restrictions against gays.
The chief of staff's policy states that it is strictly forbidden to
harm or hurt anyone's dignity or feeling based on their gender or
sexual orientation in any way, including signs, slogans, pictures,
poems, lectures, any means of guidance, propaganda, publishing,
voicing, and utterance. Moreover, gays in the IDF have additional
rights, such as the right to take a shower alone if they want to.
According to a
University of California, Santa Barbara
University of California, Santa Barbara study, a
brigadier general stated that
Israelis show a "great tolerance" for
gay soldiers. Consul
David Saranga at the Israeli Consulate in New
York, who was interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times, said, "It's a
non-issue. You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave
one, and be gay at the same time."
A study published by the
Israel Gay Youth (IGY) Movement in January
2012 found that half of the homosexual soldiers who serve in the IDF
suffer from violence and homophobia, although the head of the group
said that "I am happy to say that the intention among the top brass is
to change that."
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people
Israel is the only country in the world that requires deaf and
hard-of-hearing people to serve in the military. Sign language
interpreters are provided during training, and many of them serve in
non-combat capacities such as mapping and office work.
According to a
Care2 report, vegans in the IDF may refuse vaccination
if they oppose animal testing. They are given artificial leather boots
and a black fleece beret. Until 2014, vegan soldiers in the IDF
received special allowances to buy their own food, when this policy
was replaced with vegan food being provided in all bases, as well as
vegan combat rations being offered to vegan combat soldiers.
In cases when a citizen cannot be normally drafted by the law (old
age, served as a soldier in a different country, severe health
problems, handicaps, autism, etc.), the person could enroll as a
volunteer in places where his knowledge can be used or in cases where
there is a base that accepts volunteer service from one day per week
up to full-time service based upon a volunteer's abilities and wishes.
Non-immigrating foreign volunteers typically serve with the IDF in one
of five ways:
The Mahal program targets young non-Israeli Jews or Israeli citizens
who grew up abroad (men younger than 24 and women younger than 21).
The program consists typically of 18 months of IDF service, including
a lengthy training for those in combat units or (for 18 months) one
month of non-combat training and additional two months of learning
Hebrew after enlisting, if necessary. There are two additional
subcategories of Mahal, both geared solely for religious men: Mahal
Nahal Haredi (18 months), and Mahal Hesder, which combines yeshiva
study of 5 months with IDF service of 16 months, for a total of 21
months. Similar IDF programs exist for Israeli overseas residents. To
be accepted as a Mahal Volunteer, one must be of Jewish descent (at
least one Jewish grandparent).
Sar-El, an organization subordinate to the Israeli Logistics Corps,
provides a volunteer program for non-Israeli citizens who are 17 years
or older (or 15 if accompanied by a parent). The program is also aimed
at Israeli citizens, aged 30 years or older, living abroad who did not
serve in the Israeli Army and who now wish to finalize their status
with the military. The program usually consists of three weeks of
volunteer service on different rear army bases, doing non-combative
Garin Tzabar offers 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.
Lev LaChayal is a program based at
Yeshivat Lev Hatorah which takes a
holistic approach to preparation for service. Being as ready as
possible for integrating into Israeli culture, handling the physical
challenges of the military, and maintaining religious values require a
multi-pronged approach. The beit midrash learning, classes, physical
training, and even the recreational activities are designed to allow
for maximum readiness.
A live combined arms exercise simulates an enemy village takeover in
southern Israel. IDF infantry, artillery, tank and air forces
simulated taking control of an enemy village.
Israeli "Netzah Yehuda" recon company in full combat gear prepare for
a night raid in the West Bank
IDF soldier, Asael lubotzky prays with tefillin.
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
The main doctrine consists of the following principles:
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
Determine the outcome of war quickly and decisively
Very low casualty ratio
Prepare for defense
A small standing army with an early warning capability, regular air
force and navy
An efficient reserve mobilization and transportation system
Move to counterattack
Transferring the battle to enemy territory quickly
Quick attainment of war objectives
Code of conduct
In 1992, the IDF drafted a Code of Conduct that combines international
law, Israeli law, Jewish heritage and the IDF's own traditional
ethical code—the IDF Spirit (Hebrew: רוח צה"ל, Ru'ah
Stated values of the IDF
A female soldier of the IDF Search and Rescue Unit.
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 appearing sorted in
Hebrew alphabetical order):
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
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."
Israeli soldiers during the Battle of Nablus
The Engineering Corps's Atomic-Biological-Chemical Unit
Nahal Brigade soldiers pay respect to fallen comrades at Mt. Herzl's
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
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
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
Military ethics of fighting terror
Two IDF Medical Doctors in a training exercise
IDF soldiers treat an injured Palestinian man
IDF soldiers rescued an eighty-year-old Lebanese woman, after she got
tangled in the security fence on the northern border, on the Lebanese
Asa Kasher and
Amos Yadlin co-authored a noticed article
published in the Journal of Military Ethics under the title: "Military
Ethics of Fighting Terror: An Israeli Perspective". The article was
meant as an "extension of the classical Just War Theory", and as a
"[needed] third model" or missing paradigm besides which of "classical
war (army) and law enforcement (police).", resulting in a "doctrine
(...) on the background of the IDF fight against acts and activities
of terror performed by Palestinian individuals and organizations."
In this article, Kasher and Yadlin came to the conclusion that
targeted killings of terrorists were justifiable, even at the cost of
hitting nearby civilians. In a 2009 interview to Haaretz, Asa Kasher
later confirmed, pointing to the fact that in an area in which the IDF
does not have effective security control (e.g., Gaza, vs.
East-Jerusalem), soldiers' lives protection takes priority over
avoiding injury to enemy civilians. Some, along with Avishai
Margalit and Michael Walzer, have recused this argument, advancing
that such position was "contrary to centuries of theorizing about the
morality of war as well as international humanitarian law", since
drawing "a sharp line between combatants and noncombatants" would be
"the only morally relevant distinction that all those involved in a
war can agree on."
The article was intended to (then Chief of Staff) Moshe Ya'alon, to
serve as a basis for a new "code of conduct". Although Moshe Ya'alon
did endorse the article's views, and is reported to have presented it
numerous times before military forums, it was never actually turned
into a binding IDF document or an actual "code", neither by Ya'alon
nor its successors. However, the document have since reportedly been
adapted to serve as educational material, designed to emphasizes the
right behavior in low intensity warfare against terrorists, where
soldiers must operate within a civilian population.
As of today "The Spirit of the IDF" (cf. supra) is still considered
the only biding moral code that formally applies to the IDF troops. In
Amos Yadlin (then head of Military Intelligence) suggested that
the article he co-authored with
Asa Kasher be ratified as a formal
binding code, arguing that "the current code ['The Spirit of the IDF']
does not sufficiently address one of the army's most pressing
challenges: asymmetric warfare against terrorist organizations that
operate amid a civilian population".
The 11 key points highlighted in the article and educational material
mentioned above:
Military action can be taken only against military targets.
The use of force must be proportional.
Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF.
Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked.
Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners.
Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population
and those arrested.
Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to
themselves and to enemies.
Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal.
Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and
Soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their
property and vehicles.
Soldiers must report all violations of this code.
Command and control
According to the Israeli Basic Law: The IDF adopted in 1976, the IDF
is subject to the authority of the Government. The Minister in charge
of the IDF on behalf of the Government is the Minister of Defense. The
supreme command level in the military, the Chief of the General Staff,
the military's Commander in Chief, is appointed by and subject to the
authority of the civilian Government and is subordinate to the
Minister of Defense (not the Ministry of Defense itself).[citation
However, in the years after the establishment of Israel, the Military
establishment enjoyed a degree of independence given to it by
Ben-Gurion. This was evident in the attendance of the Chief of General
Staff in Cabinet and security Cabinet meetings as an equal and not as
a subordinate. Even after the
Agranat Commission inquiry following the
1973 Yom Kippur War, when the roles, the powers, and the duties of the
Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Chief of General Staff were
clarified and the rules and standards of monitoring where established
between the military and the political spheres, the military still
continued to enjoy disproportionate status at the expense of the
civilian authorities.
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 down significantly, following the signing of peace
Jordan and Egypt.
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 came two months
Israel had approved its current two-year budget. The defense
budget in 2009 stood at NIS 48.6 billion and NIS 53.2 billion for 2010
– the highest amount in Israel's history. The figure constituted
6.3% of expected gross domestic product and 15.1% of the overall
budget, even before the planned NIS 1.5 billion addition.
However, in 2011, the prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu reversed
course and moved to make significant cuts in the defense budget in
order to pay for social programs. The General Staff concluded that
the proposed cuts endangered the battle readiness of the armed
forces. In 2012,
Israel spent $15.2 billion on its armed forces,
one of the highest ratios of defense spending to GDP among developed
countries ($1,900 per person). However, Israel's spending per capita
is below that of the USA.
Weapons and equipment
Main articles: Military equipment of
Israel and Defense industry of
Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
F-16I and F-35I
Merkava – Israeli main battle tank, with 4 generations
Sa'ar 5-class corvette
Sa'ar 5-class corvette INS Lahav
IDF's current (2017) armored fighting vehicles, clockwise: IDF Namer,
IDF Caterpillar D9,
M270 MLRS and
Merkava Mk 4M
The IDF possesses top-of-the-line weapons and computer systems. Some
gear comes from the US (with some equipment modified for IDF use) such
M4A1 and M16 assault rifles, the
M24 SWS 7.62 mm bolt
action sniper rifle, the
SR-25 7.62 mm semi-automatic sniper
F-15 Eagle and
F-16 Fighting Falcon
F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets, and the
AH-1 Cobra and
AH-64D Apache attack helicopters.
Israel has also
developed its own independent weapons industry, which has developed
weapons and vehicles such as the
Merkava battle tank series, Nesher
Kfir fighter aircraft, and various small arms such as the Galil
Tavor assault rifles, and the
Uzi submachine gun.
Israel has also
installed a variant of the Samson RCWS, a remote controlled weapons
platform, which can include machine guns, grenade launchers, and
anti-tank missiles on a remotely operated turret, in pillboxes along
Gaza Strip barrier intended to prevent Palestinian
militants from entering its territory.
Israel has developed
observation balloons equipped with sophisticated cameras and
surveillance systems used to thwart terror attacks from Gaza. The
IDF also possesses advanced combat engineering equipment which include
IDF Caterpillar D9
IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer,
IDF Puma CEV, Tzefa Shiryon
and CARPET minefield breaching rockets, and a variety of robots and
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 Systems, Rafael,
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 good reputation.
In response to the price overruns on the US Littoral Combat Ship
Israel is considering producing their own warships, which
would take a decade and depend on diverting US financing to the
Israel's military technology is most famous for its firearms, 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
IAI Lavi (canceled), and the IAI Phalcon
Airborne early warning
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
Israel is the world's largest exporter of
Israel Military Industries
Israel Military Industries (IMI) is known for its firearms. The IMI
Galil, the Uzi, the
IMI Negev light machine gun and the new Tavor
TAR-21 Bullpup assault rifle are used by the IDF. The Rafael Advanced
Defense Systems Spike missile is one of the most widely exported ATGMs
in the world.
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
Iron Dome system against short-range rockets is
operational and proved to be successful, intercepting hundreds of
Qassam, 122 mm Grad and
Fajr-5 artillery rockets fire by Palestinian
militants from the Gaza Strip. David's Sling, an anti-missile
system designed to counter medium range rockets, became operational in
Israel has also worked with the US on development of a tactical
high energy laser system against medium range rockets (called Nautilus
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. Israeli
security industries developed both the satellites (Ofeq) and the
Israel is known to have developed nuclear weapons.
Israel does not
officially acknowledge its nuclear weapons program. It is thought
Israel possesses between one hundred and four hundred nuclear
warheads. It is believed that Jericho intercontinental
ballistic missiles are capable of delivering nuclear warheads with a
superior degree of accuracy and a range of 11,500 km. Israeli
F-16 fighter-bomber aircraft also have been cited as
possible nuclear delivery systems (these aircraft types are nuclear
capable in the US Air Force). The
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force
tactical nuclear weapon (B61 and B83 bombs) capability. It has
been asserted that Dolphin-class submarines have been adapted to carry
Popeye Turbo Submarine-launched cruise missiles with nuclear warheads,
so as to give
Israel a second strike capacity.
Israel deployed the
Wolf Armoured Vehicle
Wolf Armoured Vehicle APC for use in
urban warfare and to protect VIPs.
Sa'ar 4.5-class missile boat
Hermes 900 UAV
A female soldier of the unisex
Caracal Battalion armed with the Israel
Tavor assault rifle with
Meprolight 21 reflex
Arrow anti-ballistic missile
Wolf Armoured Vehicle
Israel Aerospace Industries
Israel Aerospace Industries EL/W-2085, a development of the
IDF Caterpillar D9
IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer
Iron Dome anti-rocket system launcher
Typhoon Weapon Station
Typhoon Weapon Station armed with 25 mm gun
The Python missile series.
LITENING targeting pod, which is today used by more than 20
David's Sling Weapons
System Stunner Missile
Merkava Mk 4m with Trophy active protection system, the first
operationally tested Active Protection
System for tanks.
M2 Browning on Catlanit RCWS
See also: Yom Hazikaron
An IDF ceremony for Yom Hazikaron
Israeli female soldiers on parade, Jerusalem, 1968
Yom Hazikaron, Israel's day of remembrance for fallen soldiers, is
observed on the 4th day of the month of
Iyar of the
the day before the celebration of Independence Day. Memorial services
are held in the presence of Israel's top military personnel. A
two-minute siren is heard at 11:00, which marks the opening of the
official military memorial ceremonies and private remembrance
gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis
visit the graves of family members and friends who were killed in
action. On the evening before the remembrance day all shops,
restaurants and entertainment places must close gates to the public no
later than 7 P.M. (the same routine and law applies to the day of
remembrance of the Holocaust which takes place a week earlier).
The main museum for Israel's armored corps is the
Yad La-Shiryon in
Latrun, which houses one of the largest tank museums in the world.
Other significant military museums are the
Israel Defense Forces
History Museum (Batei Ha-Osef) in Tel Aviv, the
Palmach Museum, and
the Beit HaTotchan of artillery in Zikhron Ya'akov. The Israeli Air
Force Museum is located at
Hatzerim Airbase in the
Negev Desert, and
the Israeli Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, is in Haifa.
Israel's National Military Cemetery is at Mount Herzl. Other Israeli
military cemeteries include
Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery
Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery in Tel
Aviv, and Sgula military cemetery at Petah Tikva.
Yom Ha'atzmaut and
Israel Defense Forces parade
Israel Defense Forces parades took place on Independence Day, during
the first 25 years of the State of Israel's existence. They were
cancelled after 1973 due to financial and security concerns. The
Israel Defense Forces still has weapon exhibitions country-wide on
Independence Day, but they are stationary.
Foreign military relations
Starting on the Independence day on 14 May 1948 (5
Iyar 5708), a
strong military, commercial and political relationship were
Israel until 1969. The highest level of
the military collaboration was reached between 1956 and 1966. At
France provided almost all the aircraft, tanks and military
ships. In 1969 the French president
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle limited the
export of weapons to Israel. This was the end of the "golden age" 20
years of relations between
Israel and France.
United States military relations
Former IDF Chief of Staff
Benny Gantz (right) meets with Martin
Dempsey (left), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Israeli soldiers training alongside the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
on the USS Kearsarge
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
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
Israel had been the largest annual recipient of U.S.
foreign assistance. In 2009,
Israel received $2.55 billion in Foreign
Military Financing (FMF) grants from the Department of Defense.
All but 26% of this military aid is for the purchase of military
hardware from American companies only.
United States has an anti-missile system base in the
of Southern Israel, which is manned by 120 US Army personnel.[citation
In October 2012,
United States and
Israel began their biggest joint
air and missile defense exercise, known as Austere Challenge 12,
involving around 3,500 U.S. troops in the region along with 1,000 IDF
Germany and Britain also participated.
Further information: India–
Israel enjoy strong military and strategic ties.
Israeli authorities consider Indian citizens to be the most pro-Israel
people in the world. Apart from being
Israel's second-largest economic partner in Asia, India is also
the largest customer of Israeli arms in the world. In 2006,
annual military sales between India and
Israel stood at US$900
million. Israeli defense firms had the largest exhibition at the
Aero India show, during which
Israel offered several state-of-the
art weapons to India. The first major military deal between the
two countries was the sale of Israeli
AEW radars to the
Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force in 2004. In March 2009, India and
a US$1.4 billion deal under which
Israel would sell India an advanced
air-defense system. India and
Israel have also embarked on
extensive space cooperation. In 2008, India's
ISRO launched Israel's
most technologically advanced spy satellite TecSAR. In 2009,
India reportedly developed a high-tech spy satellite
significant assistance from Israel. The satellite was
successfully launched by India in April 2009.
According to a Los Angeles Times news story the 2008 Mumbai attacks
were an attack on the growing India-
Israel partnership. It quotes
retired Indian Vice Admiral Premvir S. Das thus "Their aim was to...
tell the Indians clearly that your growing linkage with
Israel is not
what you should be doing..." In the past, India and
held numerous joint anti-terror training exercises
A German-made Dolphin class submarine
Further information: Germany–
Germany developed the Dolphin submarine and supplied it to Israel. Two
submarines were donated by Germany. The military co-operation has
been discreet 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
Israel also trained members of GSG 9, a German
counter-terrorism and special operations unit. The Israeli
Merkava MK IV tank uses a German
V12 engine produced under
In 2008, the website DefenseNews revealed that
been jointly developing a nuclear warning system, dubbed Operation
Sailors of the Israeli Navy
Israel – United Kingdom relations
During a secret operation in 1966, two British made "Chieftain" MBTs
were brought to
Israel for a 4 years long evaluation for service with
the IDF. The plan was for the IDF not only to purchase the British
MBTs, but for IMI (Israeli Military Industries) to buy production
rights. As part of the deal during the early 60's
second hand "Centurion" MBTs from the British, that used that money in
the "Chieftain" development. After the trials were done Israeli
improvement and ideas were implemented by the British manufacturer,
but British politicians cancelled the agreement with
Israel and the
program was shut down. The knowledge earned during the improvements on
the "Chieftain", together with earlier experiments in tank
improvements, gave the last push for the development and production of
the "Merkava" tank.
United Kingdom has supplied equipment and spare parts for Sa'ar
4.5-class missile boats and
F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers, components
for small-caliber artillery ammunition and air-to-surface missiles,
and engines for
Elbit Hermes 450
Elbit Hermes 450 Unmanned aerial vehicles. British
arms sales to
Israel mainly consist of light weaponry, and ammunition
and components for helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and
Further information: Israel–Russia_relations
On 19 October 1999, Defense Minister of China, General Chi Haotian,
after meeting with Syrian Defense Minister
Mustafa Tlass in Damascus,
Syria, to discuss expanding military ties between
Syria and China,
then flew directly to
Israel and met with Ehud Barak, the then Prime
Defense Minister of Israel
Defense Minister of Israel where they discussed military
relations. Among the military arrangements was a $1 billion Israeli
Russian sale of military aircraft to China, which were to be jointly
produced by Russia and Israel.
Russia bought drones from Israel.
Further information: People's Republic of China –
Israel is the second-largest foreign supplier of arms to the People's
Republic of China, only after the Russian Federation. China has
purchased a wide array of military hardware from Israel, including
Unmanned aerial vehicles
Unmanned aerial vehicles and communications satellites. China has
become an extensive market for Israel's military industries and arms
manufacturers, and trade with
Israel has allowed it to obtain
"dual-use" technology which the
United States and
European Union were
reluctant to provide. In 2010 Yair Golan, head of IDF Home Front
Command visited China to strengthen military ties. In 2012, IDF
Chief of Staff
Benny Gantz visited China for high-level talks with the
Chinese defense establishment.
Further information: Cyprus–
As closely neighboring countries,
Israel and Cyprus have enjoyed
greatly improving diplomatic relations since 2010. During the Mount
Carmel Forest Fire, Cyprus dispatched two aviation assets to assist
fire-fighting operations in
Israel – the first time Cypriot
Government aircraft were permitted to operate from Israeli airfields
in a non-civil capacity. In addition,
Israel and Cyprus have
closely cooperated in maritime activities relating to Gaza, since
2010, and have reportedly begun an extensive sharing program of
regional intelligence to support mutual security concerns. On 17 May
2012, it was widely reported that the
Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force had been
granted unrestricted access to the Nicosia Flight Information Region
of Cyprus, and that Israeli aviation assets may have operated over the
island itself. Cyprus, as a former S-300 air-defense system
operator, was speculated by Greek media to have assisted
strategic planning to challenge such air-defense systems, alongside
shorter-range SAM systems, although this remains unconfirmed.
Further information: Greece–
Two IAF Apache AH-64D Longbows and one Greek AH-64A fly above the
Greek countryside during a joint exercise, June 2011
Israel and Greece have enjoyed a very cordial military relationship
since 2008, including military drills ranging from
Israel to the
island of Crete. Drills include air-to-air long-distance refueling,
long-range flights, and most importantly aiding
outmaneuvering the S-300 which Greece has. Recent purchases
include 100 million euro deal between Greece and
Israel for the
purchase of SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000 pound bomb kits. They have also
signed many defense agreements, including Cyprus, in order to
establish stability for transporting gas from Israel-Cyprus to Greece
and on to the European Union-a paramount objective to the future
stability and prosperity of all three countries, threatened by Turkey.
Further information: Israel–Turkey relations
Israel has provided extensive military assistance to Turkey. Israel
IAI Heron Unmanned aerial vehicles, and modernized
F-4 Phantom and
Northrop F-5 aircraft at the cost of $900
million. Turkey's main battle tank is the Israeli-made Sabra tank, of
which Turkey has 170.
Israel later upgraded them for $500 million.
Israel has also supplied Turkey with Israeli-made missiles, and the
two nations have engaged in naval cooperation. Turkey allowed Israeli
pilots to practice long-range flying over mountainous terrain in
Turkey's Konya firing range, while
Israel trains Turkish pilots at
Israel's computerized firing range at Nevatim Airbase. Until
2009, the Turkish military was one of Israel's largest defense
Israel defense companies have sold unmanned aerial vehicles
and long-range targeting pods.
However, relations have been strained in recent times. In the last two
years,[when?] the Turkish military has declined to participate in the
annual joint naval exercise with
Israel and the United States. The
exercise, known as "Reliant Mermaid" was started in 1998 and included
the Israeli, Turkish and American navies. The objective of the
exercise is to practice search-and-rescue operations and to
familiarize each navy with international partners who also operate in
the Mediterranean Sea.
Further information: Azerbaijan–
Israel have engaged in intense cooperation since
1992. Israeli military have been a major provider of battlefield
aviation, artillery, antitank, and anti-infantry weaponry to
Azerbaijan. In 2009, Israeli President
Shimon Peres made a
visit to Azerbaijan where military relations were expanded further,
with the Israeli company
Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd
Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd announcing it
was going to build a factory in Baku. In 2012,
Azerbaijan signed an agreement according to which state-run Israel
Aerospace Industries would sell $1.6 billion in drones and
anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan. In March
2012, the magazine
Foreign Policy reported that the Israeli Air Force
may be preparing to use the Sitalchay Military Airbase, located
500 km (310 mi) from the Iranian border, for air strikes
against the nuclear program of Iran, later backed up by other
Israel has also sold to or received supplies of military equipment
from the Czech Republic, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Italy,
South Africa, Canada, Australia, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary,
Belgium, Austria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Vietnam and Colombia, among others.
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Israeli procurement
The IDF is planning a number of technological upgrades and structural
reforms for the future for its land, air, and sea branches. Training
has been increased, including in cooperation between ground, air, and
The Israeli Army is phasing out the M-16 rifle from all ground units
in favor of the IMI Tavor. In addition, the IDF is now replacing
its outdated M113 armored personnel carriers in favor of new Namer
APCs, with 200 ordered in 2014, the Eitan AFV, and is upgrading its
Achzarit APCs. The IDF also announced plans to
streamline its military bureaucracy so as to better maintain its
reserve force, which a 2014 State Comptroller report noted was
under-trained and may not be able to fulfill wartime missions. As part
of the plans, 100,000 reservists and will be discharged, and training
for the remainder will be improved. The officer corps will be slashed
by 5,000. In addition, infantry and light artillery brigades will be
reduced to increase training standards among the rest. The
backbone of the IDF Artillery Corps, the M109 howitzer, will be phased
out in favor of a still-undecided replacement, with the
ATMOS 2000 and
Artillery Gun Module
Artillery Gun Module under primary consideration. The IDF is also
planning a future tank to replace the Merkava. The new tank will be
able to fire lasers and electromagnetic pulses, run on a hybrid
engine, run with a crew as small as two, will be faster, and will be
better-protected, with emphasis on protection systems such as the
Trophy over armor.
Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force will purchase as many as 100 F-35 Lightning II
fighter jets from the United States. The aircraft will be modified and
designated F-35I. They will use Israeli-built electronic warfare
systems, outer-wings, guided bombs, and air-to-air
missiles. As part of a 2013 arms deal, the IAF will
purchase KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft and V-22 Osprey
multi-mission aircraft from the United States, as well as advanced
radars for warplanes and missiles designed to take out radars. In
April 2013, an Israeli official stated that within 40–50 years,
piloted aircraft would be phased out of service by unmanned aerial
vehicles capable of executing nearly any operation that can be
performed by piloted combat aircraft. Israel's military industries are
reportedly on the path to developing such technology in a few decades.
Israel will also manufacture tactical satellites for military
Israeli Navy is currently expanding its submarine fleet, with a
planned total of six Dolphin class submarines. Currently, five have
been delivered, with the sixth expected in 2017. It is also upgrading
and expanding its surface fleet. It is planning to upgrade the
electronic warfare systems of its Sa'ar 5-class corvettes and Sa'ar
4.5 class missile boats, and has ordered two new classes of
Sa'ar 6-class corvette (a variant of the
Braunschweig-class corvette) and the
Sa'ar 72-class corvette (an
improved and enlarged version of the Sa'ar 4.5-class). It plans to
acquire four Saar 6-class corvettes and three Sa'ar 72-class
Israel is also developing marine artillery, including a gun
capable of firing satellite-guided 155mm rounds between 75 and 120
National Security Council
Defense industry of Israel
Israel Military Industries
Israel Military Industries (IMI)
Israel Aerospace Industries
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
Israel and weapons of mass destruction
Israeli casualties of war
List of brigades of the
Israel Defense Forces
Military equipment of Israel
Military history of Israel
Palestinian political violence
Refusal to serve in the Israeli military
List of brigades of the
Israel Defense Forces
References and footnotes
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France & Iraq: Oil, Arms And French Policy Making in the Middle
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