Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) (Hebrew: צבא ההגנה לישראל Tsva Ha-Haganah Le-Yisrael ("[Army] Force [for] the Defense of Israel"), often abbreviated צה"ל Tsahal, alternative English spelling Tzahal, is the name of Israel's armed forces (army, air force and navy). It was formed following the founding of Israel in 1948 to "defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel" and "to protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life." The predecessors to the IDF were the Haganah (in particular, its operational branch, the Palmach) and the British armed forces, in particular the Jewish Brigade that fought during World War II. See also Jewish legion.
After the establishment of the IDF, the two Jewish underground organizations the Etzel and Lehi came under control of the IDF. But they were allowed to operate independently in Jerusalem until the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war after which they eventually disbanded.
For detailed IDF history, see: Israel Defense Forces History.
The Chief of the General Staff (in Hebrew: רמטכ"ל, pronounced: Ramatkal) is the high commander of the IDF and answers to the Defense minister and the Prime minister. All Ramatkals are in the rank of (Lieutenant) General (in Hebrew: רב אלוף , pronounced: "Rav Aluf").
Note about ranks: if the ranks of the IDF are to be translated one-to-one to Western ranks then a "Rav Aluf" is equivalent to Lieutenant General (since Major General is "Aluf"). But since Rav Aluf in Israel is the senior commander of the armed forces (including the army, air force, and navy), the translation of it as "General" is more appropriate.
Service and manpower
National military service is compulsory for Jewish men and women over the age of 18, although exemptions may be made on religious and medical grounds. Israel is the only country which currently has female conscription. The fact that an increasing number of people in the Haredi community are exempt, has been a source of tension in Israeli society. Druze also serve in the IDF. In recent years, some Druze officers have reached positions in the IDF as high as Major General. Israeli Arabs, with few exceptions, are not required to serve, though they may volunteer.
Six Israeli Arabs have received orders of distinction as a part of their military service; of them the most famous is a Bedouin officer, Lieutenant Colonel Abd El-Amin Hajer (also known as Amos Yarkoni), who received the Order of Distinction. Recently, a Bedouin officer was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
Men serve three years in the IDF, as do the women in combat positions, while women in non-combat positions serve two. The IDF requires women who volunteer for combat positions to serve for three years because combat soldiers must undergo a lengthy period of training, and the IDF wants to get as much use of that training as possible. In addition, men serve up to one month annually of reserve service, up to the age of 43-45. No direct social benefits are tied to completion of military service, but doing it is sometimes required for attaining security clearance and serving in some types of government positions (in most cases, security-related); Israeli Arabs claim, however, that this puts them at a disadvantage.
Expenditures and alliances
During 1950-66, Israel spent an average of 9% of its GDP on defense. Defense expenditures increased dramatically after both the 1967 and 1973 wars. In 1996, the military budget reached 10.6% of GDP and represented about 21.5% of the total 1996 budget.
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.
See also: Israel Security Forces.
Israeli Military Technology
The IDF is considered to be one of the most high-tech armies in the world, possessing top-of-the-line weapons and computer systems. Besides purchasing American-made weapon systems (such as the M4A1 assault rifle, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and Apache helicopter), the IDF holds a large department of weapon development, Rafael (The Authority For Weapons Development), which develops new weapons and technology to the IDF. Most of the technologies are produced by the Israeli security industries including the IMI, Elbit, El-Op and the IAI.
Currently Israel is the only country in the world with an anti-ballistic missile defense system "Hetz" and working with the USA on development of a tactical high energy laser system against medium range rockets (called Nautilus THEL). Also, Israel has the independent capability of launching satellites into orbit (a capability which is only held by Russia, the USA, the UK, China, Japan, France, India, and Israel).
Main Israeli Developments:
See also: Israel and weapons of mass destruction
It is generally believed that Israel is a nuclear power. The weapons were thought to have been developed at the Dimona nuclear reactor since the 1960s. The first two nuclear bombs were probably operational before the Six-Day War and Prime Minister Eshkol ordered them armed in Israel's first nuclear alert during that war. It is also believed that, fearing defeat in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israelis assembled thirteen twenty-kiloton nuclear bombs.
The current size and composition of Israel's nuclear stockpile is uncertain, and is the subject of various estimates and reports. FAS estimates that Israel probably has 100-200 nuclear warheads, which can be delivered by airplanes (A4 Skyhawk or converted F-4 Phantom II), or ballistic missiles (Lance, Jericho, or Jericho II missiles). The Jericho II is reported to have a range between 1,500 and 4,000 km, meaning that it can target sites as far away as central Russia.
The Israeli government has neither acknowledged nor denied that it possesses nuclear weapons, an official policy referred to as "ambiguity". However, a formerly imprisoned ex-Dimona employee, Mordechai Vanunu, confirmed much of the earlier speculation.
Israeli Defence Forces Ranks
Note about ranks: if the ranks of the IDF are to be translated one-to-one to Western ranks then a "Rav Aluf" is equivalent to Lieutenant General (since Major General is "Aluf"). But since Rav Aluf in Israel is the high commander of the army (including air force and navy), the translation of it as "General" is more appropriate.
The Code of Conduct
In 1992, the IDF has written down a Code of Conduct that is a combination of international law, Israeli law, Jewish heritage and the IDF's own traditional ethical code - Ruach Tzahal רוח צה"ל ("The Spirit of the IDF (http://www1.idf.il/DOVER/site/mainpage.asp?sl=EN&id=32)").
The IDF Code of Conduct emphasis the following values:
Recently, a team of professors, commanders and former judges, led by Tel Aviv University head of Ethics cathedra, Professor Assa Kasher, developed a code of conduct which emphasizes the right behavior in low intensity warfare against terrorists, where soldiers must operate within a civilian population. Reserve units and regular units alike are taught the following eleven rules of conduct, which are an addition to the more general IDF Spirit:
Recent policies and tactics
Owing to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the tactics of the IDF have been adapted for low intensity warfare primarily against Palestinian militants operating from within densely-populated civilian areas. Sometimes such clashes have resulted in deaths of civilians during clashes.
The IDF also employs a controversial strategy of assassinations (called targeted killings) of Palestinian militant leaders.
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