The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) (Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל‎, HaHagana LeYisra'el lit. Defence Army for Israel), commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal (צה"ל), are Israel's military forces, comprising 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, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defence Minister of Israel; the current Chief of Staff, since 2007, is Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi.

At the order of Defence Minister David Ben-Gurion on May 26, 1948, the Israel Defence Forces were officially formed as a conscript army out of the paramilitary group Haganah, incorporating the militant groups Irgun and Lehi. It served as Israel's armed forces in all the country's major military operations — including the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Operation Litani, the 1982 Lebanon War, Operation Defensive Wall, the 2006 Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. While originally the IDF was operational 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, its activities have mainly been concentrated in southern Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and the Second Intifada.

The Israel Defence Forces differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways, including the conscription of women, and the structure, with close relations between the ground forces, air force and navy. Since its founding, the IDF has striven to be a unique army fitting Israel's specific requirements. In 1965, the Israel Defence Forces was awarded the Israel Prize for its contribution to education. The IDF uses several technologies developed in Israel, many of them made specifically to match the IDF's needs, such as the Merkava main battle tank, advanced Hi-Tech weapons systems, the Desert Eagle and the Galil and Tavor assault rifles. The Uzi submachine gun was used by the IDF until December 2003, ending a service that began in 1954. The IDF also has close military relations with the United States, including development cooperation, such as on the F-15I jet, THEL laser defence system, and the Arrow missile defence system.

Idf logo4
Emblem of the Israel Defense Forces



The IDF mission is to "defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel. To protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life."

Main DoctrineEdit

The main doctrine consists of the following principles:

Basic PointsEdit

  • Israel cannot afford to lose a single war
  • Defensive on the strategic level, no territorial ambitions
  • Desire to avoid war by political means and a credible deterrent posture
  • Preventing escalation
  • Determine the outcome of war quickly and decisively
  • Combating terrorism
  • Very low casualty ratio

Prepare for DefenceEdit

  • A small standing army with an early warning capability, regular air force and navy
  • An efficient reserve mobilization and transportation system

Move to CounterattackEdit

  • Multi-arm coordination
  • Transferring the battle to enemy's territory quickly
  • Quick attainment of war objectives

Low intensity warfareEdit

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 territory.


The IDF employs a strategy of "focused foiling" (Hebrew: סיכול ממוקד‎, Sikul Memukad) of suspected Palestinian terrorists, often referred to as "targeted killing" or "targeted assassination", aimed at preventing possible future acts of violence by killing individuals who are thought to be likely to assists acts such as suicide bombings. On December 14, 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that targeted killing is a legitimate form of self-defence against terrorists, and outlined several conditions for its use.

House DemolitionsEdit

The IDF employs the tactic of house demolition in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. House demolition is presently used on the following types of houses:

  • Terrorist strongpoints (houses from which shots are fired)
  • Houses concealing tunnel entrances
  • Houses from which rockets are fired
  • Houses used for terrorist arms storage

Code of ConductEdit

In 1992, the IDF drafted a Code of Conduct that is a combination of international law, Israeli law, Jewish heritage and the IDF's own traditional ethical code—the IDF Spirit (Hebrew: רוח צה"ל‎, Ru'ah Tzahal).

Stated Values of the IDFEdit

The document defines three core values for all IDF soldiers to follow, as well as ten secondary values (the first being most important, and the others being sorted in Hebrew alphabetical order):

Core ValuesEdit

  • Defence of the State, its Citizens and its Residents - "The IDF's goal is to defend the existence of the State of Israel, its independence and the security of the citizens and residents of the state."
  • Love of the Homeland and Loyalty to the Country - "At the core of service in the IDF stand the love of the homeland and the commitment and devotion to the State of Israel-a democratic state that serves as a national home for the Jewish People-its citizens and residents."
  • Human Dignity - "The IDF and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position."

Other ValuesEdit

  • Tenacity of Purpose in Performing Missions and Drive to Victory - "The IDF servicemen and women will fight and conduct themselves with courage in the face of all dangers and obstacles; They will persevere in their missions resolutely and thoughtfully even to the point of endangering their lives."
  • Responsibility - "The IDF servicemen or women will see themselves as active participants in the defence of the state, its citizens and residents. They will carry out their duties at all times with initiative, involvement and diligence with common sense and within the framework of their authority, while prepared to bear responsibility for their conduct."
  • Credibility - "The IDF servicemen and women shall present things objectively, completely and precisely, in planning, performing and reporting. They will act in such a manner that their peers and commanders can rely upon them in performing their tasks."
  • Personal Example - "The IDF servicemen and women will comport themselves as required of them, and will demand of themselves as they demand of others, out of recognition of their ability and responsibility within the military and without to serve as a deserving role model."
  • Human Life - "The IDF servicemen and women will act in a judicious and safe manner in all they do, out of recognition of the supreme value of human life. During combat they will endanger themselves and their comrades only to the extent required to carry out their mission."
  • Purity of Arms - "The soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, body, honor and property."
  • Professionalism - "The IDF servicemen and women will acquire the professional knowledge and skills required to perform their tasks, and will implement them while striving continuously to perfect their personal and collective achievements."
  • Discipline - "The IDF servicemen and women will strive to the best of their ability to fully and successfully complete all that is required of them according to orders and their spirit. IDF soldiers will be meticulous in giving only lawful orders, and shall refrain from obeying blatantly illegal orders."
  • Comradeship - "The IDF servicemen and women will act out of fraternity and devotion to their comrades, and will always go to their assistance when they need their help or depend on them, despite any danger or difficulty, even to the point of risking their lives."
  • Sense of Mission - "The IDF soldiers view their service in the IDF as a mission; They will be ready to give their all in order to defend the state, its citizens and residents. This is due to the fact that they are representatives of the IDF who act on the basis and in the framework of the authority given to them in accordance with IDF orders."

Code of Conduct against militants and Palestinian civiliansEdit

  1. Military action can be taken only 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.
Flag of the Israel Defence Forces