Israel Defense Force (IDF; in Hebrew, Tsahal: Ts'va Haganah L'Israel)

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ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCE (IDF; in Hebrew, Tsahal: Ts'va Haganah L'Israel)

Successor to the self-defense militias of the Jewish community of Palestine, under the British mandate, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) was officially created on 26 May 1948. The army plays an important role in Israel, not only in matters of defense but also in politics and daily life. Israelis are obliged to serve in the army for relatively long terms: three years for men and two for women. In the course of five wars, the IDF has forged a reputation of invincibility, attributable to the determination of its soldiers as well as to the excellence of its matériel. Handicapped strategically because of its small size, Israel has been confronted with a permanent security problem. Having to choose between a lasting war and an uncertain peace, the Israeli military leaders have made every effort to maintain a technical and technological advantage over the neighboring Arab states as well as those in the "second circle," such as Iraq and Iran. Furthermore, the efficacy of the IDF has been based on its capacity to evaluate dangers as well as the rapidity of its response. In 1949 Israel received $100 million in U.S. aid; beginning in 1951, the country has received annual aid from the United States, beginning at $35 million in 1951 and reaching nearly $3 billion annually by 2004, of which $2.1 billion were for defense.

SEE ALSO Haganah.