Israel Defense Forces

Israel Defense Forces
(IDF; Zahal)
   Israel's military is under a unified command of land, air, and sea forces. It is subject to the authority of the government and carries out its policy. The minister of defense is in charge of the IDF and is a civilian, although he or she may have had a previous career in the professional military (e.g., Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weizman, Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Mordechai, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak, and Shaul Mofaz). A special ministerial committee generally headed by the prime minister deals with security matters on behalf of the government. Military service in the armed forces is compulsory, and eligible men and women are drafted at 18. Men generally serve for three years, women for two. Men remain liable for reserve duty until 45, while women remain liable until they reach 24. Israel's Arab citizens are not required to serve, but they can and some do volunteer. Druze men have been drafted into the IDF since 1957 at the request of their communities.
   The IDF is composed of a small standing force consisting of career officers, noncommissioned officers, and draftees, as well as reserve officers. The reserve forces are regularly called to active status for training and service, and they constitute the bulk of the military personnel. The IDF is responsible for the security of the country, and its primary task is to defend the state from the enemy. Nevertheless, it performs other tasks that serve the public good. It helps in the absorption of new immigrants (see ALIYA), the enhancement of education for recruits, and the provision of teachers to some developing areas.
   In the late 1990s, the IDF was subjected to significant scrutiny and review, mostly for the purpose of confronting the strategic challenges posed in the 21st century but also to address apparent changes in popular attitudes about the role of the military in Israeli society. In 2006, the IDF was comprised of 168,000 regular standing forces and 408,000 reservists, with 2005 national defense expenditures of $9.45 billion, constituting about 7.7 percent of gross domestic product.
   See also Al-Aksa Intifada; Ashkenazi, Gabi (1954- ); Bar Lev, Haim (1924-94); Dori, Yaacov (1899-1973); Eitan, Raphael (formerly Kaminsky; Raful; 1929-2004); Gadna (Israeli Youth Corps); Gur, Mordechai (Motta; 1930-95); Halutz, Dan (1948- ); Intifada; Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI); Laskov, Chaim (1919-82); Levy, Moshe (1936-2008); Lipkin-Shahak, Amnon (1944- ); Makleff, Mordechai (1920-78); NAHAL; Persian Gulf War (1991); Second Lebanon War (2006); Shomron, Dan (1937- ); Sinai War (1956- ); Six-Day War (1967); Tsur, Zvi (1923-2004); War in Lebanon (1982); War of Attrition (1969-70); War of Independence (1948-49); Ya'alon, Moshe (Bugi; 1950- ); Yadin, Yigael (formerly Sukenik; 1917-84); Yom Kippur War (1973).

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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