The Israel Defense Forces was founded two weeks after the establishment of the State of Israel over the course of the War of Independence, following a decision made by the temporary government of the State of Israel on May 26th, 1948. The decision was officially put into effect on May 31st, 1948; this date has been declared the founding date of the IDF and is celebrated each year throughout the IDF. The founding declaration stated that the IDF would be the exclusive military force of the State of Israel, as in any other sovereign state. After the establishment of the military, the underground organizations Palmach, Irgun and Lehi were united to become a part of the IDF.
The founding declaration, which was signed by the first Prime Minister and Defense Minister, David Ben-Gurion, stated that the IDF would be made up of Air Force, Naval and Ground Forces, and that all IDF soldiers would have to pledge allegiance to the protection of the State of Israel, its laws, and its authorities upon recruitment. In September 1949, the Military Service Law was passed, which determined the details of recruitment into the IDF and has been revised several times before the issue of the current version in 1986. In 2008, the Reserve Service Law was passed, which made IDF reserve service mandatory. In 1976, the Knesset passed the Basic Military Law, which states, among other things, the IDF’s subordination to the Israeli government.
The first Chief of the General Staff of the IDF was Lt. Gen. Yaakov Dori, and altogether 20 Chiefs of the General Staff have commanded the IDF and operated in seven wars: the War of Independence, the Sinai War, the Six Day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the First Lebanon War, and the Second Lebanon War. In May 2009, the last survivor of the first IDF General Staff, Maj. Gen. Shlomo Shamir, who was the commander of the southern front in the War of Independence, passed away.
The soldiers and commanders of the IDF operate according to the IDF operations doctrine which is always changing in accordance with current conditions, and according to the Spirit of the IDF, which is the ethical code of the IDF that is designed to communicate the basic values of the IDF.
For more information about the IDF click below:
Spirit of the IDF – The Israeli army’s ethical code
Joining the IDF – recruitment resource center
IDF Units – A breakdown of all branches and units in the Israeli Army