Israel/Defense Forces

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Formation26 May 1948
Subgroups• Sayeret Matkal
• Unit 8200
SubpageIsrael/Defense Forces/T-shirt affair

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF), commonly known by the Hebrew Tzahal, are the military forces 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 (Ramatkal), who is subordinate to the Defence Minister of Israel. Lieutenant-General (Rav Aluf) Gadi Eizenkot has served as Ramatkal since 2015.


On 26 May 1948, Prime Minister and Defence Minister David Ben-Gurion officially set up the Israel Defence Forces as a conscript army formed out of the paramilitary group Haganah and incorporating the militant groups Irgun and Lehi.

Military operations

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 Israeli raid on Lebanon (Operation Spring of Youth), 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1976 Operation Entebbe, 1978 Operation Litani, 1982 Lebanon War, 1982–2000 South Lebanon conflict, 1987–1993 First Intifada, 2000–2005 Second Intifada, 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, 2006 Lebanon War, 2008-2009 Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead), 2012 Operation Pillar of Defence, 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.[1][2] While originally the IDF operated 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, it has concentrated its activities in southern Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and the Second Intifada.


The Israel Defence Forces differs from most armed forces in its structure, which emphasises close relations between the army, navy, and air force. 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.[3] 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.[4] Although Israel has a majority of Jewish soldiers, large numbers of Israeli Druze and Circassian men are subject to mandatory conscription to the IDF just like Israeli Jews.[5]

Mahal volunteers

Overseas residents can serve in the IDF through the Mahal volunteer program which is for young non-Israelis of Jewish background who are legal residents in Israel (and descendants of a Jewish grandparent) and overseas Israelis who are younger than 24 (men), 21 (women), 36 (physicians). The program consists typically of 18 months of IDF service (21 months, if IDF-Hebrew study program, or ulpan, is necessary) including extended training for those joining combat units or 1 month of non-combat training. All overseas volunteers serve in regular Israeli military units.

In March 2017, former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Baroness Warsi said people should only be legally allowed to fight for the state they are a citizen of, and British citizens who volunteer for the Israeli army should be prosecuted like others who fight for foreign forces.[6] However, it was reported that Warsi’s demand on IDF volunteers would not gain traction with Israel-supporting Tories, many of whom are members of Conservative Friends of Israel.[7]

Nuclear weapons

Israel is known to have developed nuclear weapons but maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity and does not officially acknowledge its nuclear weapons programme.[8] It is thought Israel possesses between one hundred and four hundred nuclear warheads.[9] 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.[10] Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter-bomber aircraft also have been cited as possible nuclear delivery systems.[11][12][13] The U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle has tactical nuclear weapon capability.[14] It has been asserted that Dolphin submarines have been adapted to carry Popeye Turbo submarine-launched cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, so as to give Israel a second strike capacity.[15][16]

US—Israel military relations

In 1983, the United States and Israel established a Joint Political Military Group, which convenes twice a year. Both the US and Israel participate in joint military planning and combined exercises, and have collaborated on military research and weapons development. Additionally the US military maintains two classified, pre-positioned War Reserve Stocks in Israel valued at $493 million.[17] 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 US foreign assistance, receiving $2.55 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants from the Department of Defense in 2009. All but 26% of this military aid is for the purchase of military hardware from American companies only.[18]

The United States has an anti-missile system base in the Negev region of Southern Israel, which is manned by 120 US Army personnel.

In October 2012, United States and Israel began their biggest joint air and missile defence exercise, known as Austere Challenge 12, involving around 3,500 US troops in the region along with 1,000 IDF personnel.[19] Germany and Britain also participated.[20]


Events carried out

2018 Gaza Massacre30 March 2018 - 15 May 2018Gaza
A massacre of at least 135 unarmed protestors including many women and children, and the wounding of many thousands more by Israeli IDF sniper teams, during the Palestinian 'Great March of Return' and the weeks following its end on 15 May 2018
Gaza War 20148 July 2014 - 26 August 2014

Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Has the Elite’s Slavish pro-Israel Agenda Finally Gone Too FarWikispooks Page25 February 2019Craig MurrayIsraeli destruction of Palestinian olive trees in the occupied territories is almost as heinous as the continuing killing and imprisonment of Palestinian children. Every morning ask yourself this question: "How many children has the Israeli “Defence” Force killed since the MSM last reported one?"
Document:Spot-Shootarticle13 July 2010Jonathan CookOn the use of drones against Palestinians
File:Attack when the world is not watching.pdfpaper1 May 2015Ruben Durante
Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
An analysis of the timing of Israeli military attacks on Gaza relative to important breaking news in the US and Europe
File:Children and Youth Soldiers Testimonies 2005 2011.pdftestimony26 August 2012IDF veterans
File:UN HRC Gaza Freedom Flotilla.pdfreport1 October 2010United Nations Human Rights CouncilThe report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance


  1. "The State: Israel Defense Forces (IDF)". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 13 March 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2007.

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  2. "Israel Defense Forces". Retrieved 16 September 2007.

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  3. Abuse of IDF Exemptions Questioned The Jewish Daily Forward, 16 Dec 2009
  4. "Integration of women in the IDF". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 8 March 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2011.

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  5. "IDF human resources site" (in עברית). IDF. Retrieved 10 June 2010.

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  6. "UK citizens who fight in Israeli army should be prosecuted, Baroness Warsi says"
  7. "Warsi’s demand on IDF volunteers won’t gain traction with Israel-supporting Tories"
  8. "Nuclear Weapons – Israel". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 22 September 2010.

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  9. Brower, Kenneth S., "A Propensity for Conflict: Potential Scenarios and Outcomes of War in the Middle East," Jane's Intelligence Review, Special Report no. 14, (February 1997), 14–15. Brower notes that he is making a high estimate of the number of weapons.
  10. Missile Proliferation and Defences: Problems and Prospects. (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  11. "F-16 Falcon". Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  12. "Israel's F-16 Warplanes Likely to Carry Nuclear Weapons: Report". (20 August 2002). Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  13. Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks (PDF). U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment. August 1993. OTA-ISC-559. Retrieved 9 December 2008.

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  14. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen (November–December 2004). U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, 1954–2004 (PDF). Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Retrieved 11 June 2009.

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  15. Plushnick, Ramit (25 August 2006). "Israel buys 2 nuclear-capable submarines from Germany". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 20 July 2013.

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  16. "J'lem and Berlin sign contract for sixth submarine". Jerusalem Post. 5 February 2012.

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  17. "31st Munitions Squadron (31st MUNS)". Retrieved 10 June 2010.

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  18. Sharp, Jeremy M. (4 December 2009). "CRS report for Congress: US foreign aid to Israel" (PDF). Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 8 June 2010.

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  19. US and Israel launch joint military drill, Al Jazeera 21 October 2012
  20. Capaccio, Tony (15 October 2012). "US-Israeli Military Exercise Sending Message to Iran". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 20 July 2013.

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