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The armed forces


Ariel Sharon in Israel
Ariel Sharon in Israel

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is generally regarded by military experts as one of the finest armed forces in the world. IDF doctrine has been shaped since Israel’s founding by the country’s need to stave off attack from the numerically superior and geographically advantaged forces of its hostile Arab neighbours. This doctrine encompasses the IDF’s belief that Israel cannot afford to lose a single war, a goal that it feels can be attained only through a defensive strategy that includes a peerless intelligence community and early warning systems and a well-trained, rapidly mobilized reserve component combined with a strategic capability that consists of a small, highly trained, active-duty force that is able to take the war to the enemy, quickly attain military objectives, and rapidly reduce hostile forces.

An integrated organization encompassing sea, air, and land forces, the IDF consists of a small corps of career officers, active-duty conscripts, and reservists. Military service is compulsory for Jews and Druze, both men and women, and for Circassian men. Muslim and Christian Arabs may volunteer, although because of security concerns, the air force and intelligence corps are closed to minorities. The period of active-duty conscription is three years for men and two for women; this is followed by a decades-long period of compulsory reserve duty (to age 50 for women and age 55 for men). Reservists have 30 to 45 days of military service and training per year, but in times of national emergency reserve duty can be extended indefinitely. Since the IDF depends on the reserve service of the population to meet manpower requirements, it continues to be mainly a popular militia rather than a professional army.

Consequently, civilian-military relations are based firmly on the subordination of the army to civilian control. The chief of staff of the IDF, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, is appointed by the government based on the recommendation of the minister of defense, who selects the appointee from ranking IDF officers. Training is a crucial element of Israeli military success, and the IDF administers an extensive network of military schools and colleges for the training of its enlisted personnel and officers.

In addition, a special force, the Nahal, combines military and agricultural training and is also responsible for establishing new defense settlements along Israel’s borders. Youth battalions conduct premilitary training for young people both in and out of school. The Israeli government also assigns the IDF to provide educational services for recent immigrants whenever the need arises. "Israel" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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