Israel Defense Forces
Photography by Gary Moore
Some interesting facts on the Israel Defense Forces from Wikipedia. Scroll down to see images.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) often abbreviated with the Hebrew acronym צה"ל Tsahal, alternative English spelling Tzahal, is the name of Israel's defensive forces, comprising the Israeli Army, the Israeli Air Force and the Israeli Navy.
The Israeli Defence Force was founded May 14, 1948 with the establishment of the state of Israel "to protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life" . The IDF succeeded the Haganah (in particular, its operational branch, the Palmach) as the permanent military of the Jewish state. It was also joined by former elements of the Jewish Brigade that fought under the British flag during World War II. After the establishment of the IDF the two Jewish underground organizations the Etzel and Lehi joined with the IDF in a loose confederation but were allowed to operate independently in some sectors until the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, after which these two organizations were disbanded, and their members integrated into the IDF. The modern IDF came into existing during the period from 1949 to 1956 by experience gained through regional conflicts with their Arab neighbours.
National military service is compulsory for Jewish and Druze men, and Jewish women, over the age of 18, although exemptions may be made on religious, physical or psychological grounds. Men in the Haredi community may choose to be exempt while enrolled in Yeshivas, a practice that is a source of tension , though some yeshiva programs like Hesder provide opportunities for service.
Men serve three years in the IDF, while women serve two and sometimes under two. The IDF may on occasions require women who volunteer for combat positions to serve for three years because combat soldiers must undergo a lengthy period of training. Women in combat positions are also required to serve as reserve for several years after their dismissal from regular service, pending marriage, or pregnancy, is in order.
Israel has female conscription, but about a third of female conscripts (more than double the figure for men) are exempted, mainly for religious and nuptial reasons.
Following their active service, women, like men, are in theory required to serve up to one month annually in reserve duty. However, in practice only some women in combat roles get called for active reserve duty, and only for a few years following their active service, with many exit points (e.g., pregnancy).
Apart from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when manpower shortages saw many of them taking active part in battles on the ground, women were historically barred from battle in the IDF, serving in a variety of technical and administrative support roles. During this period however, the IDF reputedly favoured female instructors for training male soldiers in certain roles, particularly tank crews. This was on the basis that female instructors of similar age to the young conscripts were more likely to receive the full attention of their students. But after a landmark 1994 High Court appeal by Alice Miller, a Jewish immigrant from South Africa, the Air Force was instructed to open its pilots course to women (several served as transport pilots during the first Arab-Israeli War in 1948 and "Operation Kadesh" in 1956, but the Air Force later closed its ranks to women fliers). Miller failed the entrance exams, but since her initiative, many additional combat roles were opened. As of 2005, women are allowed to serve in 83% of all positions in the military, including Shipboard Navy Service (except submarines), and Artillery. Combat roles are voluntary for women.
As of 2002, 33% of lower rank Officers are women, 21% of Captains and Majors, but only 3% of the most senior ranks.
450 women currently serve in combat units of Israel's security forces, primarily in the Border Police. The first female fighter pilot received her wings in 2001. In a controversial move, the IDF abolished its "Women's Corps" command in 2004, with a view that it has become an anachronism and a stumbling block towards integration of women in the army as regular soldiers with no special status. However, after pressures from feminist lobbies, The Chief of Staff was persuaded to keep an "advisor for women's affairs".
Since 1976, Israel had been the largest annual recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. In recent years, Israel has received about $1.8 billion a year in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants from the Department of Defense. This amount has increased in recent years due to non-military economic aid being shifted to military aid.
The IDF possesses top-of-the-line weapons and computer systems; some of it American-made or indigenously modified (such as the M4A1 assault rifle, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon jets and Apache helicopter). Israel receives more than US$2 billion per year in military aid from the United States, and much of it requires that American equipment be purchased with it. In spite of this however, Israel also has developed its own independent weapons industry. Weapons such as the Merkava battle tank, Kfir jet series, and various small arms such as the Galil assault rifle and Uzi submachine gun have all proven to be very successful.
The IDF also has several large internal research and development departments, and it purchases many technologies produced by the Israeli security industries including IAI, IMI, Elbit, El-Op, Rafael, Soltam and dozens of smaller firms. Many of these developments have been battle-tested in Israel's numerous military engagements, making the relationship mutually beneficial, the IDF getting tailor-made solutions and the industries a very high repute.
srael and the United States are the only countries in the world with an anti-ballistic missile defense system ("Hetz", Arrow, or Patriot (U.S.) developed with funding and technology from the United States), though an operational system is in place protecting the Moscow area. Israel has also worked with the U.S. on development of a tactical high energy laser system against medium range rockets (called Nautilus THEL).
Israel has the independent capability of launching reconnaissance satellites into orbit (a capability which only Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the People's Republic of China, India and Japan hold). Both the satellites (Ofeq) and the launchers (Shavit) were developed by the Israeli security industries.
Israel is also said to have developed an indigenous nuclear capability, although no official details or acknowledgements have ever been publicized. On the issue of this nuclear weapons program, Israel chooses to follow a policy of deliberate ambiguity.
The Israeli government has neither acknowledged nor denied that it possesses nuclear weapons, an official policy referred to as "ambiguity". However, details of Israel's nuclear program were revealed in 1986 to the British press by Mordechai Vanunu, a former nuclear technician. Following these revelations, Mordechai Vanunu was abducted by the Mossad and convicted of treason in his country. Released in 2004 under specific conditions, he lives today under surveillance in Israel.
Recently, a team of professors, commanders and former judges, led by Tel Aviv University the holder of the Ethics chair, 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:
1. Military action can only be taken against military targets.
2. The use of force must be proportional.
3. Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF.
4. Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked.
5. Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners.
6. Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested.
7. Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to oneself and one's enemy.
8. Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal.
9. Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and artifacts.
10. Soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their property and vehicles.
11. Soldiers must report all violations of this code.
The IDF employs a controversial strategy of "focused foiling" (in Hebrew: סיכול ממוקד sikul memukad), termed "extra-judicial executions" by human rights organizations,  of presumed Palestinian terrorist leaders, aimed at preventing future acts of violence by killing a person related to anticipated future violence (such as terrorist at the stages of planning or executing a terrorist attack).
Among prominent figures assassinated by Israel are Abu Jihad, Abbas al-Musawi, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
The IDF has historically used a strategy of demolishing houses of family members of suicide bombers, originally claiming that this was a very effective prevention tactic: Would-be bombers' families sometimes prevent the bomber, sometimes even going as far as informing to the IDF, in the hope of preventing their family-member's death as well as their house being demolished. Some would-be bombers even relented at the last moment, fearing their parent's home would be demolished. Critics, including human right organizations , contend that effectiveness does not legitimize excessive force. They also contend that the demolitions carried out by the IDF disproportionately affect civilians. However, many Israelis accept this tactic as necessary.
During the recent conflict, the number of houses demolished has increased significantly, both as the result of an increase in the number of suicide bombers, as well as due to more lenient criteria for house demolition. The IDF now routinely demolishes houses from which shots were fired at nearby traffic or settlements, houses harboring concealed Smuggling tunnel entrances in the Gaza strip, and for other security reasons.
Another main source for house demolition is in the course of fighting. After several IDF soldiers were killed early in the conflict while searching houses containing militants, the IDF started employing a tactic of surrounding such houses, calling on the occupants (civilian and militant) to exit, and demolishing the house on top of the militants within in case they do not surrender. This tactic is now used whenever feasible (i.e., non multi-rise building that's separated from other houses). Palestinians claim several cases in which houses were demolished on top of incapacitated or deaf civilian occupants. However, the IDF claims that in the vast majority of cases the occupants were militants.
In some heavy fighting incidents, esp. in the Battle of Jenin 2002 and Operation Rainbow in Rafah 2004, heavily-armored IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozers were used to demolish houses to widen alleyways or to secure locations for IDF troops.
Palestinians and international organizations say the use of bulldozers by the IDF is illegal. In one well-known incident, International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie was killed while trying to stop a bulldozer in Rafah.
In summer 2005, after numerous houses had been destroyed, the Israeli army itself came to the conclusion that these demolitions do not contribute to Israel's security and announced putting an end to this policy. This does however not mean that, as part of its "low intensity warfare", the IDF would not destroy civilian homes during combat.