Israel Defense Forces
Israel's ground, air, and naval forces, known as the Israel Defense Force (IDF), fall under the command of a single general staff. Conscription is universal for Jewish men and women over the age of 18, although exemptions may be made on religious grounds. Druze, members of a small Islamic sect living in Israel's mountains, also serve in the IDF. Israeli Arabs, with few exceptions, do not serve. During 1950-66, Israel spent an average of 9% of GDP on defense. Real defense expenditures increased dramatically after both the 1967 and 1973 wars. In 1996, the military budget reached 10.6% of GDP and represented about 21.5% of the total 1996 budget.
The highest ranking IDF officer, the only officer to hold the rank of lieutenant general, is the chief of staff, who is chairman of the general staff and is responsible to the minister of defense. The general staff is in charge of "professional" matters, such as organization, training, and the planning and execution of military operations.
The general staff has as its members the chief of general staff branch (operations), the chiefs of manpower, logistics, and intelligence; the three area commanders; and the commanding officers of the air force, navy, and ground corps. The ground corps commander was responsible for training, doctrine, and development of equipment for the four combat corps of paratroop/infantry, armor, artillery, and engineers. Operational control of the ground forces went through a separate chain of command from the chief of staff directly to the three area commanders--Northern (forces facing Syria and Lebanon); Central (forces facing Jordan); and Southern (forces facing Egypt)--who in turn exercised command over divisions and brigades.
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Updated Wednesday, May 24, 2000 12:15:01 PM