|Military of Israel
Israel Defense Forces logo
Flag of the Israel Defense Forces
|| Israeli Army
Israeli Air Force
|Chief of General Staff
||Rav Aluf Benny Gantz
|1,554,186 males, age 17–49 (2000 est.),
1,514,063 females, age 17–49 (2000 est.)
|1,499,998 males, age 17–49 (2000 est.),
1,392,319 females, age 17–49 (2000 est.)
|54,148 males (2000 est.),
47,996 females (2000 est.)
||176,500 (ranked 34th)
||57.7₪ billion (~$16.5 billion)
|Percent of GDP
||Israel Aerospace Industries
Israel Military Industries
Israel Weapon Industries
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
|| United States (1968–present)
Germany (1998-present) France (1955–1966)
||War of Independence (1948–1949)
Reprisal operations (1951–1956)
Sinai War (1956)
Six-Day War (1967)
War of Attrition (1967–1970)
Yom Kippur War (1973)
South Lebanon conflict (1978)
First Lebanon War (1982-1985)
South Lebanon conflict (1985-2000)
First Intifada (1987–1993)
Second Intifada (2000–2005)
Second Lebanon War (2006)
Gaza War (2008-2009)
Pillar of Defense (2012)
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF; Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל Tzva Hahagana LeYisra’el (help·info), lit. “The Army of Defense for Israel“), commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal (צה”ל), are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of 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 itsChief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; Lieutenant general (Rav Aluf) Benny Gantz has served as Chief of Staff since 2011.
An order from Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion on 26 May 1948, officially set up the Israel Defense Forces as a conscript army formed out of the paramilitary group Haganah, incorporating the militant groupsIrgun and Lehi. The IDF served as Israel’s armed forces in all the country’s major military operations—including the 1948 War of Independence, 1951–1956 Retribution operations, 1956 Sinai War, 1964–1967 War over Water, 1967 Six-Day War, 1967–1970 War of Attrition, 1968 Battle of Karameh, 1973 Operation Spring of Youth, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1976 Operation Entebbe, 1978 Operation Litani, 1982 Lebanon War,1982–2000 South Lebanon conflict, 1987–1993 First Intifada, 2000–2005 Second Intifada, 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, 2006 Lebanon War, 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense, and 2014 Operation Protective Edge . The number of wars and border conflicts in which the IDF has been involved in its short history makes it one of the most battle-trained armed forces in the world. While originally the IDF operated 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, it has concentrated its activities in southern Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, including the First and the Second Intifada.
The Israel Defense Forces differs from most armed forces in the world in many ways. Differences include the mandatory conscription of women and its structure, which emphasizes close relations between the army, navy, and air force. Since its founding, the IDF has been specifically designed to match Israel’s unique security situation. The IDF is one of Israeli society’s most prominent institutions, influencing the country’s economy, culture and political scene. In 1965, the Israel Defense 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, Achzarit armoured personnel carrier, high tech weapons systems, the Iron Dome missile defense system, Trophy active protection systemfor vehicles, and the Galil and Tavor assault rifles. The Uzi submachine gun was invented in Israel and used by the IDF until December 2003, ending a service that began in 1954. Following 1967, the IDF has closemilitary relations with the United States, including development cooperation, such as on the F-15I jet, THEL laser defense system, and the Arrow missile defense system.
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)
The IDF traces its roots to Jewish paramilitary organizations in the New Yishuv, starting with the Second Aliyah (1904 to 1914). The first such organization was Bar-Giora, founded in September 1907. It was converted to Hashomer in April 1909, which operated until the British Mandate of Palestine came into being in 1920. Hashomer was an elitist organization with narrow scope, and was mainly created to protect against criminal gangs seeking to steal property. During World War I, the forerunners of the Haganah/IDF were the Zion Mule Corps and the Jewish Legion, both of which were part of the British Army. After the Arab riots against Jews in April 1920, the Yishuv’s leadership saw the need to create a nationwide underground defense organization, and the Haganah was founded in June of the same year. The Haganah became a full-scale defense force after the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine with an organized structure, consisting of three main units—the Field Corps, Guard Corps, and the Palmach. During World War II the successor to the Jewish Legion of World War I was the Jewish Brigade.
The IDF was founded following the establishment of the State of Israel, after Defense Minister and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion issued an order on 26 May 1948. The order called for the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces, and the abolishment of all other Jewish armed forces. Although Ben-Gurion had no legal authority to issue such an order, the order was made legal by the cabinet on 31 May.
The two other Jewish underground organizations, Irgun and Lehi, agreed to join the IDF if they would be able to form independent units and agreed not to make independent arms purchases. This was the background for the dispute which led to the Altalena Affair, following a confrontation regarding the weapons purchased by the Irgun. This resulted in a battle between Irgun members and the newly created IDF. It ended when the ship carrying the arms was shelled. Following the affair, all independent Irgun and Lehi units were either disbanded or merged into the IDF. The Palmach, a strong lobby within the Haganah, also joined the IDF with provisions, and Ben Gurion responded by disbanding its staff in 1949, after which many senior Palmach officers retired, notably its first commander, Yitzhak Sadeh.
The new army organized itself during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War when neighbouring Arab states attacked Israel. Twelve infantry and armored brigades formed: Golani, Carmeli, Alexandroni, Kiryati, Givati, Etzioni, the 7th, and 8tharmored brigades, Oded, Harel, Yiftach, and Negev. After the war, some of the brigades were converted to reserve units, and others were disbanded. Directorates and corps were created from corps and services in the Haganah, and this basic structure in the IDF still exists today.
Operation Gazelle, Israel’s ground maneuver, encircles the Egyptian Third Army, October 1973
Immediately after the 1948 war, the Israel Defense Forces shifted to low intensity conflict against Arab Palestinian guerrillas. In the 1956 Suez Crisis, the IDF’s first test of strength after 1949, the new army proved itself by capturing the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, which was later returned. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel conquered the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Golan Heights from the surrounding Arab states, changing the balance of power in the region as well as the role of the IDF. In the following years leading up to the Yom Kippur War, the IDF fought a war of attritionagainst Egypt in the Sinai and a border war against the PLO in Jordan, culminating in the Battle of Karameh.
The surprise of the Yom Kippur War and its aftermath completely changed the IDF’s procedures and approach to warfare. Organizational changes were madelow-intensity conflict, urban warfare and counter-terrorism. It was involved in the Lebanese Civil War, initiatingOperation Litani and later the 1982 Lebanon War, where the IDF ousted Palestinian guerilla organizations from Lebanon. Palestinian militancy has been the main focus of the IDF ever since, especially during the First and Second Intifadas, Operation Defensive Shield, and the Gaza War, causing the IDF to change many of its values and publish the IDF Spirit. The Islamic Shia organization Hezbollah has also been a growing threat, against which the IDF fought an asymmetric conflict between 1982 and 2000, as well as a full-scale war in 2006.
and more time was dedicated to training for conventional warfare. However, in the following years the army’s role slowly shifted again to
The Israeli cabinet ratified the name “Israel Defense Forces” (Hebrew: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל), Tzva HaHagana LeYisra’el, literally “army for the defense of Israel,” on 26 May 1948. The other main contender wasTzva Yisra’el (Hebrew: צְבָא יִשְׂרָאֵל). The name was chosen because it conveyed the idea that the army’s role was defense, and because it incorporated the name Haganah, upon which the new army was based. Among the primary opponents of the name were Minister Haim-Moshe Shapira and the Hatzohar party, both in favor of Tzva Yisra’el.
All branches of the IDF answer to a single General Staff. The Chief of the General Staff is the only serving officer having the rank of Lieutenant General (Rav Aluf). He reports directly to the Defense Minister and indirectly to thePrime Minister of Israel and the cabinet. Chiefs of Staff are formally appointed by the cabinet, based on the Defense Minister’s recommendation, for three years, but the government can vote to extend their service to four (and in rare occasions even five) years. The current chief of staff is Benny Gantz. He replaced Gabi Ashkenazi in 2011.
The IDF includes the following bodies (those whose respective heads are members of the General Staff are in bold):
Structure of the Israel Defense Forces (click to enlarge)
The following bodies work closely with the IDF, but do not (or only partially) belong to its formal structure.
Ranks, uniforms and insignia
Israeli officers of the Paratrooper Battalion 890 in 1955 with Moshe Dayan (standing, third from the left).Ariel Sharon is standing, second from the left and commando Meir Har Zion is standing furthest left.
Soldiers of the “Yanshuf” (Owl) Battalion, which specializes in CBRNwarfare
Unlike most world armies, the IDF uses the same rank names in all corps, including the air force, and navy. All enlisted ranks, as well as some of the officer and NCO ranks, may be given as a result of time spent in service, and not for accomplishment or merit.
For ground forces’ officers, rank insignia were brass on a red background; for the air force, silver on a blue background; and for the navy, the standard gold worn on the sleeve. Officer insignia were worn on epaulets on top of both shoulders. Insignia distinctive to each service were worn on the cap (see fig. 15).
Enlisted grades wore rank insignia on the sleeve, halfway between the shoulder and the elbow. For the army and air force, the insignia were white with blue interwoven threads backed with the appropriate corps color. Navy personnel wore gold-colored rank insignia sewn on navy blue material.
From the formation of the IDF until the late 1980s, sergeant major was a particularly important warrant officer rank, in line with usage in other armies. However, in the 1980s and 1990s the proliferating ranks of sergeant major became devalued, and now all professional NCO ranks are a variation on sergeant major (rav samal) with the exception of rav nagad.
All translations here are the official translations of the IDF’s website.
Conscripts (Hogrim) (Conscript ranks may be gained purely on time served)
Warrant Officers (Nagadim) (All volunteers)
Academic officers (Ktzinim Akadema’im)
- Professional Academic Officer (Katzin Miktzo’i Akadema’i)
- Senior Academic Officer (Katzin Akadema’i Bakhir)
The Israel Defense Forces has several types of uniforms:
- Service dress (Madei Alef – Uniform “A”) – the everyday uniform, worn by enlisted soldiers.
- Field dress (Madei Bet – Uniform “B”) – worn into combat, training, work on base.
The first two resemble each other but the Madei Alef is made of higher quality materials in a golden-olive while the madei bet is in olive drab. The dress uniforms may also exhibit a surface shine
- Officers / Ceremonial dress (madei srad) – worn by officers, or during special events/ceremonies.
- Dress uniform and Mess dress – worn only abroad. There are several dress uniforms depending on the season and the branch.
The service uniform for all ground forces personnel is olive green; navy and air force uniforms are beige (tan). The uniforms consist of a two-pocket shirt, combat trousers, sweater, jacket or blouse, and shoes or boots. The navy has an all white dress uniform. Green fatigues are the same for winter and summer and heavy winter gear is issued as needed. Women’s dress parallels the men’s but may substitute a skirt for the trousers.
IDF female infantry soldiers
Headgear included a service cap for dress and semi-dress and a field cap or bush hat worn with fatigues. IDF personnel generally wear berets in lieu of the service cap. Berets are now worn on the left shoulder under the epaulett daily and on the head only for ceremonial purposes. There are many Beret colors issued to IDF Servicemen and Women. Paratroops are issued a maroon beret, Golani brown, Givati purple, Kfir Camouflage, Combat Engineers gray, IDF Naval and Air force personnel also have berets. Blue-grey for the IDF Air Corps and Navy-blue for the IDF Naval Forces. Other beret colors are: black for armored corps, Grey for mechanized infantry and turquoise artillery personnel; olive drab for infantry; grey for combat engineers; and purple for the Givati Brigade and brown for the Golani Brigade. For all other army personnel, except combat units, the beret for men was green and for women, black. Women in the navy wore a black beret with gold insignia. Males in the navy once wore a blue/black beret but replaced it with the US Navy’s sailor hat.
Some corps or units have small variations in their uniforms – for instance, military policemen wear a white belt and police hat, Naval personnel have dress whites for parades, Paratroopers are issued a four pocket Tunic (shirt) meant to be worn untucked with a pistol belt cinched tight around the waist over the shirt. Similarly, while most IDF soldiers are issued black leather boots, some units issue reddish-brown leather boots for historical reasons — the paratroopers, combat medics, Nahal and Kfir brigades, as well as some SF units (Sayeret Matkal, Oketz, Duvdevan, Maglan, Counter-Terror School). Women were also formerly issued sandals, but this practice has ceased.
IDF soldiers have three types of insignia (other than rank insignia) which identify their corps, specific unit, and position.
A pin attached to the beret identifies a soldier’s corps. Soldiers serving in staffs above corps level are often identified by the General Corps pin, despite not officially belonging to it, or the pin of a related corps. New recruits undergoing basic training (tironut) do not have a pin. Beret colors are also often indicative of the soldier’s corps, although most non-combat corps do not have their own beret, and sometimes wear the color of the corps to which the post they’re stationed in belongs. Individual units are identified by a shoulder tag attached to the left shoulder strap. Most units in the IDF have their own tags, although those that do not, generally use tags identical to their command’s tag (corps, directorate, or regional command).
While one cannot always identify the position/job of a soldier, two optional factors help make this identification: an aiguillette attached to the left shoulder strap and shirt pocket, and a pin indicating the soldier’s work type (usually given by a professional course). Other pins may indicate the corps or additional courses taken. Finally, an optional battle pin indicates a war that a soldier has fought in.
163rd IAF Flight Course Graduates
IAF Flight academy graduates receive their ranks as air force officers
Military service routes
The military service is held in three different tracks:
- Regular service (שירות חובה) – mandatory military service which is held according to the Israeli security service law.
- Permanent Service (שירות קבע) – military service which is held as part of a contractual agreement between the IDF and the permanent position holder.
- Reserve service (שירות מילואים) – a military service in which citizens are called for active duty of at most a month every year, for training activities and ongoing defense activities and especially for the purpose of increasing the military forces in case of a war.
Sometimes the IDF would also hold pre-military courses (קורס קדם צבאי or קד”צ) for soon to be regular service soldiers.
Special service routes
- Shoher (שוחר), a person enrolled in pre-military studies (High School, Technical College up to Eng degree, some of the קד”ץ courses) – after completing the 12th study year will do a 2 month boot-camp and, if allowed, enter a program of education to qualify as a Practical engineer, with at least two weeks of training following each study year. Successful candidates will continue for an Engineering Bachelor degree. Shoher will be enrolled into regular service if he dropped out before finished his P.A. education or in any finishing education stage (after High School, after P.A. or after receiving the Bachelor degree).
Shoher will have the ability to serve in R&D units without having the engineering credentials if an officer finds him as worthy and could recommend him for the R&D units, R&D unit have the option to provide “על תקן מהנדס” certificate for few selected personal to allow person to work on life saving or flight equipment without having an Eng. license (the certificate isn’t valid for medical R&D machinery), the certificate is provided by the highest in command in the research field (as an example for the Air Force it is the Chef of Equipment Group).
- Civilian working for the IDF (אזרח עובד צה”ל), a civilian working for the military.
The Israeli Manpower Directorate (אגף משאבי אנוש) at the Israeli General Staff is the body which coordinates and assembles activities related to the control over human resources and its placement.
National military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18, although Arab (but not Druze) citizens are exempted if they so please, and other exceptions may be made on religious, physical or psychological grounds (see Profile 21). The Tal law, which exempts ultra-orthodox Jews from service, has been the subject of several court cases as well as considerable legislative controversy.
Men serve three years in the IDF, while women serve two. The IDF women who volunteer for several combat positions often serve for three years, due to the longer period of training. Women in other positions, such as programmers, who also require lengthy training time, may also serve three years. Women in most combat positions are also required to serve in the reserve for several years after they leave regular service.
Some distinguished recruits are selected to be trained in order to eventually become members of special forces units. Every brigade in the IDF has its own special force branch.
Career soldiers are paid on average NIS 23,000 a month, fifty times the NIS 460 paid to conscripts.
In 1998-2000, only about 9% of those who refused to serve in the Israeli military were granted exemption.
Permanent service is designed for soldiers who choose to continue serving in the army after their regular service, for a short or long period, and in many cases making the military their career. Permanent service usually begins immediately after the mandatory Regular service period, but there are also soldiers who get released from military at the end of the mandatory Regular service period and who get recruited back to the military as Permanent service soldiers in a later period.
Permanent service is based on a contractual agreement between the IDF and the permanent position holder. The service contract defines how long the soldier’s service would be, and towards the end of the contract period a discussion may rise on the extension of the soldier’s service duration. Many times, regular service soldiers are required to commit to a permanent service after the mandatory Regular service period, in exchange for assigning them in military positions which require a long training period.
In exchange for the Permanent service, the Permanent service soldiers receive full wages, and when serving for a long period as a permanent service soldier, they are also entitled for a pension from the army. This right is given to the Permanent service soldiers in a relatively early stage of their life in comparison to the rest of the Israeli retirees.
Officers in reserve duty before parachuting exercise. Reserve service may continue until the age of 51
After personnel complete their regular service, the IDF may call up men for:
- reserve service of up to one month annually, until the age of 43–45 (reservists may volunteer after this age)
- active duty immediately in times of crisis
In most cases, the reserve duty is carried out in the same unit for years, in many cases the same unit as the active service and by the same people. Many soldiers who have served together in active service continue to meet in reserve duty for years after their discharge, causing reserve duty to become a strong male bonding experience in Israeli society.
Although still available for call-up in times of crisis, most Israeli men, and virtually all women, do not actually perform reserve service in any given year. Units do not always call up all of their reservists every year, and a variety of exemptions are available if called for regular reserve service. Virtually no exemptions exist for reservists called up in a time of crisis, but experience has shown that in such cases (most recently, the 2006 Lebanon War) exemptions are rarely requested or exercised; units generally achieve recruitment rates above those considered fully manned.
The Israel Border Police (Magav) is responsible for security in urban or rural areas
Legislation (set to take effect by 13 March 2008) has proposed reform in the reserve service, lowering the maximum service age to 40, designating it as a purely emergency force, as well as many other changes to the structure (although the Defence Minister can suspend any portion of it at any time for security reasons). The age threshold for many reservists whose positions are not listed, though, will be fixed at 49.
Other than the National Service (Sherut Leumi), IDF conscripts may serve in bodies other than the IDF in a number of ways.
The combat option is Israel Border Police (Magav – the exact translation from Hebrew means “border guard”) service, part of the Israel Police. Some soldiers complete their IDF combat training and later undergo additionalcounter terror and Border Police training. These are assigned to Border Police units. The Border Police units fight side by side with the regular IDF combat units though to a lower capacity. They are also responsible for security in heavy urban areas such as Jerusalem and security and crime fighting in rural areas.
Non-combat services include the Mandatory Police Service (Shaham) program, where youth serve in the Israeli Police, Israel Prison Service, or other wings of the Israeli Security Forces instead of the regular army service.
IDF infantry instructors, a common role for women in the IDF
Israel is the only nation to conscript women and assign some of them to infantry combatant service which places them directly in the line of enemy fire.
Civilian pilot and aeronautical engineer Alice Miller successfully petitioned the High Court of Justice to take the Israeli Air Force pilot training exams, after being rejected on grounds of gender. Though president Ezer Weizman, a former IAF commander, told Miller that she would be better off staying home and darning socks, the court eventually ruled in 1996 that the IAF could not exclude qualified women from pilot training. Even though Miller would not pass the exams, the ruling was a watershed, opening doors for women in new IDF roles. Female legislators took advantage of the momentum to draft a bill allowing women to volunteer for any position, if they could qualify.
In 2000, the Equality amendment to the Military Service law stated that the right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men. Women have taken part in Israel’s military before and since the founding of the state in 1948. Women started to enter combat support and light combat roles in a few areas, including the Artillery Corps, infantry units and armored divisions. A few platoons named Karakal were formed for men and women to serve together in light infantry. By 2000 Karakal became a full-fledged battalion. Many women would also join the Border Police.
In June 2011, Maj. General Orna Barbivai became the first female major general in the IDF, replacing head of the directorate Maj. General Avi Zamir. Barbivai stated, “I am proud to be the first woman to become a major general and to be part of an organization in which equality is a central principle. 90 percent of jobs in the IDF are open to women and I am sure that there are other women who will continue to break down barriers.”
In 2013, the IDF announced they would, for the first time, allow a (MTF) transgender woman to serve in the army as a female soldier.
Minorities in the IDF
Non-Jewish minorities tended to serve in one of several special units: the Minorities Unit, also known as Unit 300; the Druze Reconnaissance Unit; and the Trackers Unit, which comprised mostly Negev Bedouins. In 1982 the IDF general staff decided to integrate the armed forces by opening up other units to minorities, while placing some Jewish conscripts in the Minorities Unit. Until 1988 the intelligence corps and the air force remained closed to minorities.
Druze and Circassians
Druze commander of the IDF Herev battalion
Although Israel, being a Jewish state, has a majority of Jewish soldiers, large numbers of Druze and Circassian men are subject to mandatory conscription to the IDF just like Israeli Jews. Originally, they served in the framework of a special unit called “The Minorities’ Unit”, which still exists today, in the form of the independent Herev (“Sword”) battalion. However, since the 1980s Druze soldiers have increasingly protested this practice, which they considered a means of segregating them and denying them access to elite units (like sayeret units). The army has increasingly admitted Druze soldiers to regular combat units and promoted them to higher ranks from which they had been previously excluded. In recent years, several Druze officers have reached ranks as high as Major General and many have received commendations for distinguished service. In proportion to their numbers, the Druze people achieve much higher—documented—levels in the Israeli army than other soldiers. Nevertheless, some Druze still charge that discrimination continues, such as exclusion from the Air Force, although the official low security classification for Druze has been abolished for some time. The first Druze aircraft navigator completed his training course in 2005; his identity is protected as are those of all air force pilots. During the Israeli War of Independence, many Druze who had initially sided with the Arabs deserted their ranks to either return to their villages or side with Israel in various capacities.
Since the late 1970s the Druze Initiative Committee, centered at the village of Beit Jan and linked to the Israeli Communist Party, has campaigned to abolish Druze conscription.
Military service is a tradition among some of the Druze population, with most opposition in Druze communities of the Golan Heights; 83 percent of Druze boys serve in the army, according to the IDF’s statistics. According to the Israeli army, 369 Druze soldiers have been killed in combat operations since 1948.
Bedouins and Israeli Arabs
Israeli Arab soldiers, serving in theGalilee in 1978
Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion, visiting an Arab school
By law, all Israeli citizens are subject to conscription. The Defense Minister has complete discretion to grant exemption to individual citizens or classes of citizens. A long-standing policy dating to Israel’s early years extends an exemption to all other Israeli minorities (most notably Israeli Arabs). However, there is a long-standing government policy of encouraging Bedouins to volunteer and of offering them various inducements, and in some impoverished Bedouin communities a military career seems one of the few means of (relative) social mobility available. Also, Muslims and Christians are accepted as volunteers, even at an age greater than 18.
From among non-Bedouin Arab citizens, the number of volunteers for military service—some Christian Arabs and even a few Muslim Arabs—is minute, and the government makes no special effort to increase it. Six Israeli Arabs have received orders of distinction as a result of their military service; of them the most famous is a Bedouin officer, Lieutenant Colonel Abd el-Majid Hidr (also known as Amos Yarkoni), who received the Order of Distinction. Vahid el Huzil was the first Bedouin to be a battalion commander. Recently, a Bedouin officer was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
Until the second term of Yitzhak Rabin as Prime Minister (1992–1995), social benefits given to families in which at least one member (including a grandfather, uncle or cousin) had served at some time in the armed forces were significantly higher than to “non-military” families, which was considered a means of blatant discrimination between Jews and Arabs. Rabin had led the abolition of the measure, in the teeth of strong opposition from the Right. At present, the only official advantage from military service is the attaining of security clearance and serving in some types of government positions (in most cases, security-related), as well as some indirect benefits.
Rather than perform army service, Israeli Arab youths have the option to volunteer to national service and receive benefits similar to those received by discharged soldiers. The volunteers are generally allocated to Arab populations, where they assist with social and community matters. As of 2010 there are 1,473 Arabs volunteering for national service. According to sources in the national service administration, Arab leaders are counseling youths to refrain from performing services to the state. According to a National Service official, “For years the Arab leadership has demanded, justifiably, benefits for Arab youths similar to those received by discharged soldiers. Now, when this opportunity is available, it is precisely these leaders who reject the state’s call to come and do the service, and receive these benefits”.
Although Arabs are not obligated to serve in IDF, any Arab can volunteer. A Muslim Arab woman is currently serving as a medic with unit 669.
Cpl. Elinor Joseph from Haifa became the first female Arab combat soldier for IDF. Elinor said:
||…there was a Katyusha [rocket] that fell near my house and also hurt Arabs. If someone would tell me that serving in the IDF means killing Arabs, I remind them that Arabs also kill Arabs.
Other Arab-Muslim officers in the IDF are Hisham Abu Varia, who is currently a Second Lieutenant, and Major Ala Wahib, who is currently the highest ranking Muslim officer in the IDF.
In October 2012, the IDF promoted Mona Abdo to become the first female Christian Arab to the rank of combat commander. Abdo had voluntarily enlisted in the IDF, which her family had encouraged, and transferred from theOrdnance Corps to the Caracal Battalion, a mixed-gender unit with both Jewish and Arab soldiers.
Recently, there’s been an increase of Israeli Christian Arabs joining the Army.
The IDF carried out extended missions in Ethiopia and neighboring states, whose purpose was to protect Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) and to help their immigration to Israel. The IDF adopted policies and special activities for absorption and integration of Ethiopian immigrant soldiers, which resulted in great positive impact on the achievements and integration of those soldiers in the army as well as Israeli society in general. Statistical research showed that the Ethiopian soldiers are esteemed as excellent soldiers and many aspire to be recruited to combat units.
Men in the Haredi community may choose to defer service while enrolled in yeshivot (see Tal committee); many avoid conscription altogether. This special arrangement is called Torato Omanuto, and has given rise to tensionsbetween the Israeli religious and secular communities. While options exist for Haredim to serve in the IDF in an atmosphere conducive to their religious convictions, most Haredim do not choose to serve in the IDF.
Haredi males have the option of serving in the 97th “Netzah Yehuda” Infantry Battalion. This unit is a standard IDF infantry battalion focused on the Jenin region. To allow Haredi soldiers to serve, the Netzah Yehuda military bases follow the highest standards of Jewish dietary laws; the only women permitted on these bases are wives of soldiers and officers. Additionally, some Haredim serve in the IDF via the Hesder system, principally designed for the Religious Zionist sector; it is a 5-year program which includes 2 years of religious studies, 1½ years of military service and 1½ years of religious studies during which the soldiers can be recalled to active duty at any moment. Haredi soldiers are permitted to join other units of the IDF as well, but rarely do.
The IDF has identified an urgent gap of hundreds of soldiers in their technical units that might be filled by the Haredi. The IAF is currently using Defense contractors to fill in the gaps and continue operations.
Israel is one of 24 nations that allow openly gay individuals to serve in the military. Since the early 1990s, sexual identity presents no formal barrier in terms of soldiers’ military specialization or eligibility for promotion.
Until the 1980s, the IDF tended to discharge soldiers who were openly gay. In 1983, the IDF permitted homosexuals to serve, but banned them from intelligence and top-secret positions. A decade later, Professor Uzi Even,an IDF reserves officer and chairman of Tel Aviv University’s Chemistry Department revealed that his rank had been revoked and that he had been barred from researching sensitive topics in military intelligence, solely because of his sexual orientation. His testimony to the Knesset in 1993 raised a political storm, forcing the IDF to remove such restrictions against gays.
The chief of staff’s policy states that it is strictly forbidden to harm or hurt anyone’s dignity or feeling based on their gender or sexual orientation in any way, including signs, slogans, pictures, poems, lectures, any means of guidance, propaganda, publishing, voicing, and utterance. Moreover, gays in the IDF have additional rights, such as the right to take a shower alone if they want to. According to a University of California, Santa Barbarastudy, a brigadier general stated that Israelis show a “great tolerance” for gay soldiers. Consul David Saranga at the Israeli Consulate in New York, who was interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times, said, “It’s a non-issue. You can be a very good officer, a creative one, a brave one, and be gay at the same time.”
A study published by the Israel Gay Youth (IGY) Movement in January 2012 found that half of the homosexual soldiers who serve in the IDF suffer from violence and homophobia, although the head of the group said that “I am happy to say that the intention among the top brass is to change that.”
Deaf and hard-of-hearing people
Israel is the only country in the world that requires the deaf and hard-of-hearing people to serve in the conscription or military. Sign language interpreters are provided during training, and many of them serve in the non-combat capacities such as mappers, office work, and the like. The deaf and hard-of-hearing people who have served in the IDF have better opportunities in employment, housing, education, and other areas than those who do not serve. In addition, they gain a greater respect and recognition for their service and contribution to the country as well as stronger self-esteem and motivation.
According to a Care2 report, vegans in the IDF may refuse vaccination if they oppose animal testing. They are provided with special allowances to buy their own food. They are also given artificial leather boots.
In cases when a citizen cannot be normally drafted by the law (old age, served as a soldier in a different country, severe health problems, handicaps, autism, etc.), the person could enroll as a volunteer in places where his knowledge can be used or in cases where there is a base that accepts volunteer service from one day per week up to full 24/7 service based upon that person’s abilities and wishes.
Non-immigrating foreign volunteers typically serve with the IDF in one of four ways:
- The Mahal program targets young non-Israeli Jews (men younger than 24 and women younger than 21). The program consists typically of 18 months of IDF service, including a lengthy training for those in combat units or (for 18 months) one month of non-combat training and additional two months of learning Hebrew after enlisting, if necessary. There are two additional subcategories of Mahal, both geared solely for religious men: MahalNahal Haredi (18 months), and Mahal Hesder, which combines yeshiva study of 5 months with IDF service of 16 months, for a total of 21 months. Similar IDF programs exist for Israeli overseas residents. To be accepted as a Mahal Volunteer, one must be of Jewish descent (at least one Jewish grandparent).
- Sar-El, an organisation subordinate to the Israeli Logistics Corps, provides a volunteer program for non-Israeli citizens who are 17 years or older (or 15 if accompanied by a parent). The program is also aimed at Israeli citizens, aged 30 years or older, living abroad who did not serve in the Israeli Army and who now wish to finalize their status with the military. The program usually consists of three weeks of volunteer service on different rear army bases, doing non-combative work.
- Garin Tzabar offers a program mainly for Israelis who emigrated with their parents to the United States at a young age. Although a basic knowledge of the Hebrew language is not mandatory, it is helpful. Of all the programs listed, only Garin Tzabar requires full-length service in the IDF. The program is set up in stages: first the participants go through five seminars in their country of origin, then have an absorption period in Israel at a kibbutz. Each delegation is adopted by a kibbutz in Israel and has living quarters designated for it. The delegation shares responsibilities in the kibbutz when on military leave. Participants start the program three months before being enlisted in the army at the beginning of August.
- Marva is short-term basic training for two months.
A live combined arms
exercise simulates an enemy village takeover in southern Israel. IDF infantry, artillery, tank and air forces simulated taking control of an enemy village.
Israeli “Netzah Yehuda” recon company in full combat gear prepare for a night raid in the West Bank
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.”
The main doctrine consists of the following principles:
- 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
Female infantry instructors prepare for a combat exercise
Prepare for defense
- A small standing army with an early warning capability, regular air force and navy
- An efficient reserve mobilization and transportation system
Move to counterattack
- Multi-arm coordination
- Transferring the battle to enemy territory quickly
- Quick attainment of war objectives
Code of conduct
In 1992, the IDF drafted a Code of Conduct that combines 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 IDF
A female soldier of the IDF Search and Rescue Unit.
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 appearing sorted in Hebrew alphabetical order):
- Core values
- Defense 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 values
The Engineering Corps’s Atomic-Biological-Chemical Unit
- 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 defense 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.”
Military ethics of fighting terror
Two IDF Medical Doctors in a training exercise
IDF soldiers treat an injured Palestinian man
IDF soldiers rescued an eighty-year-old Lebanese woman, after she got tangled in the security fence on the northern border, on the Lebanese side
In 2005, Asa Kasher and Amos Yadlin co-authored a noticed article published in the Journal of Military Ethics under the title: “Military Ethics of Fighting Terror: An Israeli Perspective”. The article was meant as an “extension of the classical Just War Theory”, and as a “[needed] third model” or missing paradigm besides which of “classical war (army) and law enforcement (police).”, resulting in a “doctrine (…) on the background of the IDF fight against acts and activities of terror performed by Palestinian individuals and organizations.”
In this article, Kasher and Yadlin came to the conclusion that targeted killings of terrorists were justifiable, even at the cost of hitting nearby civilians. In a 2009 interview to Haaretz, Asa Kasher later confirmed, pointing to the fact that in an area in which the IDF does not have effective security control (e.g., Gaza, vs. Est-Jerusalem), soldiers’ lives protection takes priority over avoiding injury to enemy civilians. Some, along with Avishai Margalit andMichael Walzer, have recused this argument, advancing that such position was “contrary to centuries of theorizing about the morality of war as well as international humanitarian law”, since drawing “a sharp line between combatants and noncombatants” would be “the only morally relevant distinction that all those involved in a war can agree on.”
The article was intended to (then Chief of Staff) Moshe Ya’alon, to serve as a basis for a new “code of conduct”. Although Moshe Ya’alon did endorse the article’s views, and is reported to have presented it numerous times before military forums, it was never actually turned into a binding IDF document or an actual “code”, neither by Ya’alon nor its successors. However, the document have since reportedly been adapted to serve as educational material, designed to emphasizes the right behavior in low intensity warfare against terrorists, where soldiers must operate within a civilian population.
As of today “The Spirit of the IDF” (cf. supra) is still considered the only biding moral code that formally applies to the IDF troops. In 2009, Amos Yadlin (then head of Military Intelligence) suggested that the article he co-authored with Asa Kasher be ratified as a formal binding code, arguing that “the current code [‘The Spirit of the IDF’] does not sufficiently address one of the army’s most pressing challenges: asymmetric warfare against terrorist organizations that operate amid a civilian population”.
The 11 key points highlighted in the article and educational material mentioned above:
- Military action can be taken only against military targets.
- The use of force must be proportional.
- Soldiers may only use weaponry they were issued by the IDF.
- Anyone who surrenders cannot be attacked.
- Only those who are properly trained can interrogate prisoners.
- Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested.
- Soldiers must give appropriate medical care, when conditions allow, to themselves and to enemies.
- Pillaging is absolutely and totally illegal.
- Soldiers must show proper respect for religious and cultural sites and artifacts.
- Soldiers must protect international aid workers, including their property and vehicles.
- Soldiers must report all violations of this code.
Command and Control
According to the Israeli Basic Law: The IDF adopted in 1976, the IDF is subject to the authority of the Government. The Minister in charge of the IDF on behalf of the Government is the Minister of Defense. The supreme command level in the military, the Chief of the General Staff – who is the military’s Commander in Chief – is appointed by and subject to the authority of the civilian Government and is subordinate to the Minister of Defense (not the Ministry of Defense itself).
However in the years after the establishment of Israel, the Military establishment enjoyed a degree of independence given to it by Ben-Gurion. This was evident in the attendance of the Chief of General Staff in Cabinet and security Cabinet meetings as an equal and not as a subordinate. Even after the Agranat Commission inquiry following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the roles, the powers, and the duties of the Prime Minister, Defense Minister and Chief of General Staff were clarified and the rules and standards of monitoring where established between the military and the political spheres, the military still continued to enjoy an overlarge status on the expense of the civilian authority.
During 1950–66, Israel spent an average of 9% of its GDP on defense. Defense expenditures increased dramatically after both the 1967 and 1973 wars. They reached a high of about 24% of GDP in the 1980s, but have since come down significantly, following the signing of peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt.
On 30 September 2009 Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed an additional NIS 1.5 billion for the defense budget to help Israel address problems regarding Iran. The budget changes came two months after Israel had approved its current two-year budget. The defense budget in 2009 stood at NIS 48.6 billion and NIS 53.2 billion for 2010 – the highest amount in Israel’s history. The figure constituted 6.3% of expected gross domestic product and 15.1% of the overall budget, even before the planned NIS 1.5 billion addition.
However in 2011, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed course and moved to make significant cuts in the defense budget in order to pay for social programs. The General Staff concluded that the proposed cuts endangered the battle readiness of the armed forces. In 2012, Israel spent $15.2 billion on its armed forces, one of the highest ratios of defense spending to GDP among developed countries ($1,900 per person). However, Israel’s spending per capita is below that of the USA.
Weapons and equipment
The IDF possesses top-of-the-line weapons and computer systems. Some gear comes from the US (with some equipment modified for IDF use) such as the M4A1 and M16 assault rifles, the M24 SWS 7.62 mm bolt action sniper rifle, the SR-25 7.62 mm semi-automatic sniper rifle, the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets, and the AH-1 Cobra and AH-64D Apache attack helicopters. Israel has also developed its own independent weapons industry, which has developed weapons and vehicles such as the Merkava battle tank series, Nesher and Kfir fighter aircraft, and various small arms such as the Galil and Tavor assault rifles, and the Uzi submachine gun. Israel has also installed a variant of the Samson RCWS, a remote controlled weapons platform, which can include machine guns, grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles on a remotely operated turret, in pillboxes along the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier intended to prevent Palestinian militants from entering its territory. Israel has developed observation balloons equipped with sophisticated cameras and surveillance systems used to thwart terror attacks from Gaza. The IDF also possesses advanced combat engineering equipment which include the IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer, IDF Puma CEV, Tzefa Shiryon and CARPET minefield breaching rockets, and a variety ofrobots and explosive devices.
The IDF also has several large internal research and development departments, and it purchases many technologies produced by the Israeli security industries including IAI, IMI, Elbit Systems, Rafael, and dozens of smaller firms. Many of these developments have been battle-tested in Israel’s numerous military engagements, making the relationship mutually beneficial, the IDF getting tailor-made solutions and the industries a good reputation.
In response to the price overruns on the US Littoral Combat Ship program, Israel is considering producing their own warships, which would take a decade and depend on diverting US financing to the project.
Israel’s military technology is most famous for its firearms, armored fighting vehicles (tanks, tank-converted armored personnel carriers (APCs), armoured bulldozers, etc.), unmanned aerial vehicles, and rocketry (missiles and rockets). Israel also has manufactured aircraft including the Kfir (reserve), IAI Lavi (canceled), and the IAI Phalcon Airborne early warning System, and naval systems (patrol and missile ships). Much of the IDF’s electronic systems (intelligence, communication, command and control, navigation etc.) are Israeli-developed, including many systems installed on foreign platforms (esp. aircraft, tanks and submarines), as are many of its precision-guided munitions. Israel is the world’s largest exporter of drones.
Israel Military Industries (IMI) is known for its firearms. The IMI Galil, the Uzi, the IMI Negev light machine gun and the new Tavor TAR-21 Bullpup assault rifle are used by the IDF.
Israel is the only country in the world with an operational anti-ballistic missile defense system on the national level – the Arrow system, jointly funded and produced by Israel and the United States. The Iron Dome system against short-range rockets is operational and proved to be successful. David’s Sling, an anti-missile system designed to counter medium range rockets is under development. Israel has also worked with the US on development of a tactical high energy laser system against medium range rockets (called Nautilus or THEL).
Israel has the independent capability of launching reconnaissance satellites into orbit, a capability shared with Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, South Korea, Italy, Germany, the People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Brazil and Ukraine. Israeli security industries developed both the satellites (Ofeq) and the launchers (Shavit).
Israel is known to have developed nuclear weapons. Israel does not officially acknowledge its nuclear weapons program. It is thought Israel possesses between one hundred and four hundred nuclear warheads. It is believed that Jericho intercontinental ballistic missiles are capable of delivering nuclear warheads with a superior degree of accuracy and a range of 11,500 km. Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter-bomber aircraft also have been cited as possible nuclear delivery systems. The U.S. Air Force F-15 has tactical nuclear weapon capability. It has been asserted that Dolphin submarines have been adapted to carry missiles with nuclear warheads, so as to give Israel a second strike capacity.
From 2006 Israel deployed the Wolf Armoured Vehicle APC for use in urban warfare and to protect VIPs.
An official IDF ceremony for Yom Hazikaron
Israeli female soldiers on parade, Jerusalem, 1968
Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s day of remembrance for fallen soldiers, is observed on the 4th day of the month of Iyar of the Hebrew calendar, the day before the celebration of Independence Day. Memorial services are held in the presence of Israel’s top military personnel. A two-minute siren is heard at 11:00, which marks the opening of the official military memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis visit the graves of family members and friends who were killed in action. On the evening before the remembrance day all shops, restaurants and entertainment places must close gates to the public no later than 7 P.M. (the same routine and law applies to the day of remembrance of the Holocaust which takes place a week earlier).
The main museum for Israel’s armored corps is the Yad La-Shiryon in Latrun, which houses one of the largest tank museums in the world. Other significant military museums are the Israel Defense Forces History Museum (Batei Ha-Osef) in Tel Aviv, the Palmach Museum, and the Beit HaTotchan of artillery in Zikhron Ya’akov. The Israeli Air Force Museum is located at Hatzerim Airbase in the Negev Desert, and the Israeli Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, is in Haifa.
Israel’s National Military Cemetery is at Mount Herzl. Other Israeli military cemeteries include Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery in Tel Aviv, and Sgula military cemetery at Petah Tikva.
Israel Defense Forces parades took place on Independence Day, during the first 25 years of the State of Israel’s existence. They were cancelled after 1973 due to financial concerns. The Israel Defense Forces still has weapon exhibitions country-wide on Independence Day, but they are stationary.
Foreign military relations
Starting on the Independence day on 14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708), a strong military, commercial and political relationship were established between France and Israel until 1969. The highest level of the military collaboration was reached between 1956 and 1966. At this time France provided almost all the aircraft, tanks and military ships. In 1969 the French president Charles de Gaulle limited the export of weapons to Israel. This was the end of the “golden age” 20 years of relations between Israel and France.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (right) meets with Martin Dempsey (left), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
In 1983, the United States and Israel established a Joint Political Military Group, which convenes twice a year. Both the U.S. and Israel participate in joint military planning and combined exercises, and have collaborated on military research and weapons development. Additionally the U.S. military maintains two classified, pre-positioned War Reserve Stocks in Israel valued at $493 million. Israel has the official distinction of being an AmericanMajor non-NATO ally. As a result of this, the US and Israel share the vast majority of their security and military technology.
Since 1976, Israel had been the largest annual recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. In 2009, Israel received $2.55 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants from the Department of Defense. All but 26% of this military aid is for the purchase of military hardware from American companies only.
The United States has an anti-missile system base in the Negev region of Southern Israel, which is manned by 120 US Army personnel.
In October 2012, United States and Israel began their biggest joint air and missile defense exercise, known as Austere Challenge 12, involving around 3,500 U.S. troops in the region along with 1,000 IDF personnel. Germany and Britain also participated.
India and Israel enjoy strong military and strategic ties. Israeli authorities consider Indian citizens to be the most pro-Israel people in the world. Apart from being Israel’s second-largest economic partner in Asia, India is also the largest customer of Israeli arms in the world. In 2006, annual military sales between India and Israel stood at US$900 million. Israeli defense firms had the largest exhibition at the 2009 Aero Indiashow, during which Israel offered several state-of-the art weapons to India. The first major military deal between the two countries was the sale of Israeli EL/W-2090 AEW radars to the Indian Air Force in 2004. In March 2009, India and Israel signed a US$1.4 billion deal under which Israel would sell India an advanced air-defense system. India and Israel have also embarked on extensive space cooperation. In 2008, India’s ISRO launched Israel’s most technologically advanced spy satellite TecSAR. In 2009, India reportedly developed a high-tech spy satellite RISAT-2 with significant assistance from Israel. The satellite was successfully launched by India in April 2009.
According to a Los Angeles Times news story the 2008 Mumbai attacks were an attack on the growing India-Israel partnership. It quotes retired Indian Vice Admiral Premvir S. Das thus “Their aim was to… tell the Indians clearly that your growing linkage with Israel is not what you should be doing…” In the past, India and Israel have held numerous joint anti-terror training exercises and it was also reported that in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, Israel was helping India launch anti-terror raids inside Pakistani territory.
Germany developed the Dolphin submarine and supplied it to Israel. Two submarines were donated by Germany. The military co-operation has been discreet but mutually profitable: Israeli intelligence, for example, sent captured Warsaw Pact armour to West Germany to be analysed. The results aided the German development of an anti-tank system. Israel also trained GSG 9 members. The Israeli Merkava MK IV tank uses a German V12 engine produced under license.
In 2008, the website DefenseNews revealed that Germany and Israel had been jointly developing a nuclear warning system, dubbed Operation Bluebird.
During a secret operation in 1966, two British made “Chieftain” MBTs were brought to Israel for a 4 years long evaluation for service with the IDF. The plan was for the IDF not only to purchase the British MBTs, but for IMI (Israeli Military Industries) to buy production rights. As part of the deal during the early 60’s Israel purchased second hand “Centurion” MBTs from the British, that used that money in the “Chieftain” development. After the trials were done Israeli improvement and ideas were implemented by the British manufacturer, but British politicians cancelled the agreement with Israel and the program was shut-down. The knowledge earned during the improvements on the “Chieftain”, together with earlier experiments in tank improvements, gave the last push for the development and production of the “Merkava” tank.
United Kingdom has supplied equipment and spare parts for Sa’ar 4.5-class missile boats and F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers, components for small-caliber artillery ammunition and air-to-surface missiles, and engines for Elbit Hermes 450 Unmanned aerial vehicles. British arms sales to Israel mainly consist of light weaponry, and ammunition and components for helicopters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and combat aircraft.
Israel is the second-largest foreign supplier of arms to the People’s Republic of China, only after the Russian Federation. China has purchased a wide array of military hardware from Israel, including Unmanned aerial vehiclesand communications satellites. China has become an extensive market for Israel’s military industries and arms manufacturers, and trade with Israel has allowed it to obtain “dual-use” technology which the United States andEuropean Union were reluctant to provide. In 2010 Yair Golan, head of IDF Home Front Command visited China to strengthen military ties. In 2012, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz visited China for high-level talks with the Chinese defense establishment.
As closely neighboring countries, Israel and Cyprus have enjoyed greatly improving diplomatic relations since 2010. During the Mount Carmel Forest Fire, Cyprus dispatched two aviation assets to assist fire-fighting operations in Israel – the first time Cypriot Government aircraft were permitted to operate from Israeli airfields in a non-civil capacity. In addition, Israel and Cyprus have closely cooperated in maritime activities relating to Gaza, since 2010, and have reportedly begun an extensive sharing program of regional intelligence to support mutual security concerns. On 17 May 2012, it was widely reported that the Israeli Air Force had been granted unrestricted access to the Nicosia Flight Information Region of Cyprus, and that Israeli aviation assets may have operated over the island itself. Cyprus, as a former S-300 air-defense system operator, was speculated by Greek media to have assisted Israel in strategic planning to challenge such air-defense systems, alongside shorter-range SAM systems, although this remains unconfirmed.
Three IAF helicopters, two Apache longbows and one Black Hawk, fly above Greek mountains during a joint exercise with the Hellenic Air Force, June 2011
Israel and Greece have enjoyed a very cordial military relationship since 2008, including military drills ranging from Israel to the island of Crete. Drills include air-to-air long-distance refueling, long-range flights, and most importantly aiding Israel in outmaneuvering the S-300 which Greece has. Recent purchases include 100 million euro deal between Greece and Israel for the purchase of SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000 pound bomb kits. They have also signed many defense agreements, including Cyprus, in order to establish stability for transporting gas from Israel-Cyprus to Greece and on to the European Union-a paramount objective to the future stability and prosperity of all three countries, threatened by Turkey.
Israel has provided extensive military assistance to Turkey. Israel sold Turkey IAI Heron Unmanned aerial vehicles, and modernized Turkey’s F-4 Phantom and Northrop F-5 aircraft at the cost of $900 million. Turkey’s main battle tank is the Israeli-made Sabra tank, of which Turkey has 170. Israel later upgraded them for $500 million. Israel has also supplied Turkey with Israeli-made missiles, and the two nations have engaged in naval cooperation. Turkey allowed Israeli pilots to practice long-range flying over mountainous terrain in Turkey’s Konya firing range, while Israel trains Turkish pilots at Israel’s computerized firing range at Nevatim Airbase. Until 2009, the Turkish military was one of Israel’s largest defense customers. Israel defense companies have sold unmanned aerial vehicles and long-range targeting pods.
However, relations have been strained in recent times. In the last two years, the Turkish military has declined to participate in the annual joint naval exercise with Israel and the United States. The exercise, known as “Reliant Mermaid” was started in 1998 and included the Israeli, Turkish and American navies. The objective of the exercise is to practice search-and-rescue operations and to familiarize each navy with international partners who also operate in the Mediterranean Sea.
Azerbaijan and Israel have engaged in intense cooperation since 1992. Israeli military have been a major provider of battlefield aviation, artillery, antitank, and anti-infantry weaponry to Azerbaijan. In 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres made a visit to Azerbaijan where military relations were expanded further, with the Israeli company Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd announcing it was going to build a factory in Baku. In 2012, Israel and Azerbaijan signed an agreement according to which state-run Israel Aerospace Industries would sell $1.6 billion in drones and anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan. In March 2012, the magazine Foreign Policy reported that the Israeli Air Force may be preparing to use the Sitalchay Military Airbase, located 500 km (310 mi) from the Iranian border, for air strikes against the nuclear program of Iran, later confirmed by other media.
Israel has also sold or received supplies of military equipment from the Czech Republic, Spain, Slovakia, Italy, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia,Vietnam and Colombia, among others.
The IDF is planning a number of technological upgrades for the future. As part of its plans, the M-16 rifle is currently being phased out of all ground units in favor of the IMI Tavor. In addition, the IDF is now planning for a future tank to replace the Merkava. The new tank will be able to fire lasers and electromagnetic pulses, run on a hybrid engine, run with a crew as small as two, will be faster, and will be better-protected, with emphasis on protection systems such as the Trophy over armor.
The Israeli Air Force will purchase as many as 100 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets from the United States. The aircraft will be modified and designated F-35I. They will use Israeli-built electronic warfare systems, outer-wings, guided bombs, and air-to-air missiles.
As part of a 2013 arms deal, the IAF will purchase KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft and V-22 Osprey multi-mission aircraft from the United States, as well as advanced radars for warplanes and missiles designed to take out radars.
In April 2013, an Israeli official stated that within 40–50 years, piloted aircraft would be phased out of service by unmanned aerial vehicles capable of executing nearly any operation that can be performed by piloted combat aircraft. Israel’s military industries are reportedly on the path to developing such technology in a few decades. Israel will also manufacture tactical satellites for military use.
The Israeli Navy is expecting the delivery of a fifth Dolphin-class submarine in 2013, and a sixth in 2017. Israel is planning to upgrade its surface fleet, and is jointly developing four frigates based on the Incheon class frigate with South Korea. In addition, Israel may procure destroyers and cruisers equipped with cruise missiles with a range of some 2,000 kilometers. Israel is also developing marine artillery, including a gun capable of firing satellite-guided 155mm rounds between 75 and 120 kilometers.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hamas (Arabic: حماس Ḥamās, “enthusiasm”, an acronym of حركة المقاومة الاسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah, “Islamic Resistance Movement”) is a Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization, with an associated military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East including Qatar.
Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel and a number of Western and non-Western governments; The United States, Canada, the European Union, Jordan, Egypt and Japan classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. Other states, however, including Iran, Russia, Turkey, China and many Arab nations do not. Since 2007, Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip, after it won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections and defeated the Fatah political organization in a series of violent clashes.
Based on the principles of Islamism gaining momentum throughout the Arab world in the 1980s, Hamas was founded in 1987 (during the First Intifada) as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Co-founderSheik Ahmed Yassin stated in 1987, and the Hamas Charter affirmed in 1988, that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. However, in July 2009, Khaled Meshal, Hamas’s political bureau chief, said the organization was willing to cooperate with “a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders”, provided that Palestinian refugees hold the right to return to Israel and that East Jerusalem be the new nation’s capital. However, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, deputy chairman of Hamas political bureau, said in 2014 that “Hamas will not recognize Israel”, adding “this is a red line that cannot be crossed”.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas affiliated military wing, has launched attacks on Israel, against both civilian and military targets. Attacks on civilian targets have included rocket attacks and, from 1993 to 2006, suicide bombings. Attacks on military targets have included small-arms fire and rocket and mortar attacks.
In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas won a decisive majority in the Palestinian Parliament, defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party. Following the elections, the Quartet (United States, Russia, United Nations, and European Union) conditioned future foreign assistance to the PA on the future government’s commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Hamas resisted such changes, leading to Quartet suspension of its foreign assistance program and Israel imposing economic sanctions against the Hamas-led administration. In March 2007 a national unity government, headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas was briefly formed, but this failed to restart international financial assistance. Tensions over control of Palestinian security forces soon erupted into the2007 Battle of Gaza, after which Hamas retained control of Gaza while its officials were ousted from government positions in the West Bank. Israel and Egypt then imposed an economic blockade on Gaza, on the grounds that Fatah forces were no longer providing security there.
In June 2008, as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Hamas ceased rocket attacks on Israel and made some efforts to prevent attacks by other organizations. After a four-month calm, the conflict escalated when Israel carried out a military action with the stated aim of preventing an abduction planned by Hamas, using a tunnel that had been dug under the border security fence, and killed seven Hamas operatives. In retaliation, Hamas attacked Israel with a barrage of rockets. In late December 2008, Israel attacked Gaza, withdrawing its forces from the territory in mid-January 2009. After the Gaza War, Hamas continued to govern the Gaza Strip and Israel maintained its economic blockade. On May 4, 2011, Hamas and Fatah announced a reconciliation agreement that provides for “creation of a joint caretaker Palestinian government” prior to national elections scheduled for 2012. According to Israeli news reports quoting Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, as a condition of joining the PLO, Khaled Meshaal agreed to discontinue the “armed struggle” against Israel and accept Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders, alongside Israel. Hostilities resumed between November 14-21, 2012. On 12 June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered. IDF initiated an operation in the West Bank aimed to find them (not until June 30 were their bodies found). Israeli authorities have named two Hamas members as prime suspects: Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasm. The increased tensions soon escalated, and a full military operation began on July 8.
Hamas is an acronym of the Arabic phrase حركة المقاومة الاسلامية or Harakat al-Muqāwama al-Islāmiyya, meaning “Islamic Resistance Movement”. The Arabic word Hamas also means devotion and zeal in the path of Allah. The Hamas covenant interprets its name to mean “strength and bravery”.
Leadership and structure
Map of key Hamas leadership nodes. 2010
Hamas comprises three interrelated wings – the social welfare and political wings, which are responsible for the social, administrative, political, and propaganda activities of Hamas, and the military wing, which is engaged in covert activities, such as acting against suspected collaborators, gathering intelligence on potential targets, procuring weapons, and carrying out military attacks.
The Majlis al-Shura (consultative council) is the group’s overarching political and decision making body. It includes representatives from Gaza, the West Bank, Israeli prisons, and the exiled external leadership, the Political Bureau. Under this Shura council are committees responsible for supervising Hamas activities, from media relations to military operations. In the West Bank and Gaza, local Shura committees answer to the Shura council and carry out its decisions.
Hamas’s highest decision-making body is its Political Bureau, which consists of 15 members. Before the beginning of the Syrian civil war, it operated in exile in Damascus, Syria. The bureau is elected by members who select their representatives in local Consultative Councils in specific geographic regions. The councils then nominate representatives to the General Consultative Council, and the Political Bureau is elected by members of the General Consultative Council.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing formed in 1992, is named in commemoration of influential Palestinian nationalist Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. Armed Hamas cells sometimes refer to themselves as “Students of Ayyash”, “Students of the Engineer”, or “Yahya Ayyash Units”, to commemorate Yahya Ayyash, an early Hamas bomb-maker killed in 1996. Since its establishment, the military capability of Hamas has increased markedly, from rifles to Qassam rockets and more.
While the number of members is known only to the Brigades leadership, Israel estimates the Brigades have a core of several hundred members who receive military style training, including training in Iran and in Syria (before the Syrian civil war). Additionally, the brigades have an estimated 10,000 operatives “of varying degrees of skill and professionalism” who are members of Hamas or their supporters and the internal security forces. These operatives can be expected to reinforce the Brigades in an “emergency situation”.
Although the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are an integral part of Hamas, they also operate independently of Hamas, and at times contrary to Hamas’ stated aims. Most analysts agree that although differences of opinion between the Hamas military and political wing exist, Hamas’s internal discipline is strong enough to contain them. Political scientists Ilana Kass and Bard O’Neill liken Hamas’s relationship with the Brigades to the political partySinn Féin‘s relationship to the military arm of the Irish Republican Army. To further explain the relationship, they quote a senior Hamas official: “The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade is a separate armed military wing, which has its own leaders who do not take their orders from [Hamas] and do not tell us of their plans in advance.” However, according to former U.S. Department of Treasury official and terrorism expert Matthew Levitt, the Hamas Political Bureau operates as the highest ranking leadership body determining the policy of the Hamas organization and has responsibility for directing and coordinating terrorist acts. Hamas’ founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, stated in 1998: “We can not separate the wing from the body. If we do so, the body will not be able to fly. Hamas is one body.”
Hamas is popular among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, though it also has a following in the West Bank, and to a lesser extent in other Middle Eastern countries. Its popularity stems in part from its welfare wing providing social services to Palestinians in the occupied territories. Such services are not generally provided by the Palestinian Authority. Israeli scholar Reuven Paz estimates that 90% of Hamas activities revolve around “social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities”. Social services include running relief programs and funding schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues.
In particular, Hamas funded health services where people could receive free or inexpensive medical treatment. Hamas greatly contributed to the health sector, and facilitated hospital and physician services in the Palestinian territory. On the other hand, Hamas’s use of hospitals is sometimes criticised as purportedly serving the promotion of violence against Israel. Charities affiliated with Hamas are known to financially support families of those who have been killed or imprisoned while carrying out militant actions or supporting such actions. Families typically receive a one time grant of $500 to $5,000, and those whose homes have been destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces have their rent paid for temporary housing. Families of militants not affiliated with Hamas sometimes receive less.
Hamas has funded education and built Islamic charities, libraries, mosques and education centers for women. They also built nurseries, kindergartens and supervised religious schools that provide free meals to children. When children attend their schools and mosques, parents are required to sign oaths of allegiance. Refugees, as well as those left without homes, are able to claim financial and technical assistance from Hamas.
The work of Hamas in these fields supplements that provided by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). Hamas is also well regarded by Palestinians for its efficiency and perceived lack of corruption compared to Fatah. Since the 2008–2009 Israeli military operation in Gaza, Palestinian public opinion polls have shown Hamas steadily increasing in popularity with 52% support compared to 13% for Fatah. All public opinion surveys conducted recently have supported this trend.
Despite building materials needing to be smuggled into the territory, luxury beach resorts and tourist facilities operated by the interior ministry have been constructed by Hamas government–linked charities, including gardens, playgrounds, football fields, a zoo and restaurants aimed to provide employment and low cost entertainment for citizens. Some Palestinians have complained about the admission fee, criticizing Hamas for charging them to use “government-owned” property.
Hamas’ 1988 charter states that Hamas “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” (Article Six). Article Thirty-One of the Charter states: “Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions—Islam, Christianity and Judaism—to coexist in peace and quiet with each other.”
After the elections in 2006, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar did not rule out the possibility of accepting a “temporary two-state solution”, and stated that he dreamed “of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it”. Xinhua reports that Al-Zahar “did not rule out the possibility of having Jews, Muslims and Christians living under the sovereignty of an Islamic state”. In late 2006, Ismail Haniyeh, the political leader of Hamas, said that if a Palestinian state was formed within the 1967 lines, Hamas was willing to declare a truce that could last as long as 20 years, and stated that Hamas will never recognize the “usurper Zionist government” and will continue “jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem”.
In March 2006, Hamas released its official legislative program. The document clearly signaled that Hamas could refer the issue of recognizing Israel to a national referendum. Under the heading “Recognition of Israel,” it stated simply (AFP, 3/11/06): “The question of recognizing Israel is not the jurisdiction of one faction, nor the government, but a decision for the Palestinian people.” This was a major shift away from their 1988 charter. A few months later, via Maryland‘s Jerome Segal, the group sent a letter to U.S. PresidentGeorge Bush stating they “don’t mind having a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders”, and asked for direct negotiations: “Segal emphasized that a state within the 1967 borders and a truce for many years could be considered Hamas’ de facto recognition of Israel.”
In an April 2008 meeting between Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, an understanding was reached in which Hamas agreed it would respect the creation of a Palestinian state in the territory seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, provided this were ratified by the Palestinian people in a referendum. Hamas later publicly offered a long-term truce with Israel if Israel agreed to return to its 1967 borders and grant the “right of return” to all Palestinian refugees. In November 2008, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh re-stated that Hamas was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and offered Israel a long-term truce “if Israel recognized the Palestinians’ national rights”. In 2009, in a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Haniyeh repeated his group’s support for a two-state settlement based on 1967 borders: “We would never thwart efforts to create an independent Palestinian state with borders [from] June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital.” On December 1, 2010, Ismail Haniyeh again repeated, “We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees,” and “Hamas will respect the results [of a referendum] regardless of whether it differs with its ideology and principles.”
In February 2012, according to the Palestinian authority, Hamas forswore the use of violence. Evidence for this was provided by an eruption of violence from Islamic Jihad in March 2012 after an Israeli assassination of a Jihad leader, during which Hamas refrained from attacking Israel. “Israel—despite its mantra that because Hamas is sovereign in Gaza it is responsible for what goes on there—almost seems to understand,” wrote Israeli journalists Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, “and has not bombed Hamas offices or installations”.
Israel has rejected some truce offers by Hamas because it contends the group uses them to prepare for more fighting rather than peace. The Atlantic magazine columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, along with other analysts, believes Hamas may be incapable of permanent reconciliation with Israel. Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University, writes that Hamas talks “of hudna [temporary ceasefire], not of peace or reconciliation with Israel. They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine.”
Main article: Hamas Charter
The Hamas Charter (or Covenant), issued in 1988, outlined the organization’s position on many issues at the time. It identifies Hamas as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine and declares its members to be Muslims who “fear God and raise the banner of Jihad in the face of the oppressors”. The charter states “our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious” and calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel. The Charter also asserts that through shrewd manipulation of imperial countries and secret societies, Zionists were behind a wide range of events and disasters going as far back in history as the French Revolution. Among the charter’s controversial statements is the following: “The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews [and kill them]; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!” The document also quotes Islamic religious texts to provide justification for fighting against and killing the Jews of Israel, presenting the Arab–Israeli conflict as an inherently irreconcilable struggle between Jews and Muslims, and Judaism and Islam, adding that the only way to engage in this struggle between “truth and falsehood” is through Islam and by means of jihad, until victory or martyrdom. The Charter adds that “renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion” of Islam. The charter states that Hamas is humanistic, and tolerant of other religions as long as they do not block Hamas’s efforts.
Current status of the Charter
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal indicated to Robert Pastor, senior adviser to the Carter Center, that the Charter is “a piece of history and no longer relevant, but cannot be changed for internal reasons”. Hamas do not use the Charter on their website and prefer to use their election manifesto to put forth their agenda. Pastor states that those who quote the charter rather than more recent Hamas statements may be using the Charter as an excuse to ignore Hamas.
British diplomat and former British ambassador to the United Nations Sir Jeremy Greenstock stated in early 2009 that the Hamas charter was “drawn up by a Hamas-linked imam some [twenty] years ago and has never been adopted since Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government in 2006”. Mohammed Nimer of American University comments on the Charter, “It’s a tract meant to mobilize support and it should be amended…. It projects anger, not vision.” Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, has questioned the use of the charter by Israel and its supporters to brand Hamas as a fundamentalist, terrorist, racist, anti-Semitic organization and claims that they have taken parts of the charter out of context for propaganda purposes. He claims that they dwell on the charter and ignore that Hamas has changed its views with time.
Early Islamic activism in Gaza
With its takeover of Gaza after the 1967 war with Egypt, Israel hunted down secular Palestinian Liberation Organization factions but dropped the previous Egyptian rulers’ harsh restrictions against Islamic activists. In fact, Israel for many years tolerated and at times encouraged Islamic activists and groups as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the PLO and its dominant faction, Fatah.
Among the activists benefited was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, who had also formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya in 1973, a charity recognized by Israel in 1979. Israel allowed the organization to build mosques, clubs, schools, and a library in Gaza.
Yitzhak Segev, the acting governor of Gaza in 1979, said he had no illusions about Yassin’s intentions, having watched an Islamist movement topple the Shah as Israel’s military attache in Iran. According to Segev, Yassin and his charity were completely peaceful towards Israel during this time, and Segev and other Israeli officials feared being viewed as an enemy of Islam. Segev maintained regular contact with Yassin, met with him around a dozen times, and arranged for Yassin to be taken to Israel for hospital treatment.
Also, Segev said, Fatah was “our main enemy”. Islamists frequently attacked secular and leftist Palestinian movements, including Fatah, but the Israeli military avoided getting involved in those quarrels. It stood aside, for example, when Mujama al-Islamiya activists stormed the Red Crescent charity’s headquarters in Gaza, but Segev did send soldiers to prevent the burning down of the home of the head of the organization.
In 1984 the Israeli army received intelligence that Sheikh Yassin’s followers were collecting arms in Gaza. Israeli troops raided mosques and found a cache of weapons. Yassin was arrested, but told his interrogators the weapons were meant to be used against secular Palestinians, not Israel. The cleric was released a year later and allowed to continue to develop his movement in Gaza.
Around the time of Yassin’s arrest, Avner Cohen, an Israeli religious affairs official, sent a report to senior military officers and civilian leadership in Gaza advising them of the dangers of the Islamic movement, but this report and similar ones were ignored. Former military intelligence officer Shalom Harari said the warnings were ignored out of neglect, not a desire to fortify the Islamists: “Israel never financed Hamas. Israel never armed Hamas.”
In 1987, several Palestinians were killed in a traffic accident involving an Israeli driver, and the events that followed—a Palestinian uprising (now known as the First Intifada) against Israel’s West Bank and Gaza occupation—led Yassin and six other Palestinians to found Hamas as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The new group was supported by Brotherhood-affiliated charities and social institutions that had already gained a strong foothold in the occupied territories. The acronym “Hamas” first appeared in 1987 in a leaflet that accused the Israeli intelligence services of undermining the moral fiber of Palestinian youth as part of Mossad‘s recruitment of what Hamas termed collaborators. Nonetheless, Israeli military and intelligence was still focused on Fatah, and continued to maintain contacts with Gaza’s Islamic activists. Numerous Islamist leaders, including senior Hamas founder Mahmoud Zahar, met with Yitzhak Rabin as part of “regular consultations” between Israeli officials and Palestinians not linked to the PLO.
Hamas carried out its first attack against Israel in 1989, abducting and killing two soldiers. The Israel Defense Forces immediately arrested Yassin and sentenced him to life in prison, and deported 400 Hamas activists, including Zahar, to South Lebanon, which at the time was occupied by Israel. During this time Hamas built a relationship with Hezbollah.
Hamas’s military branch, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was created in 1991. During the 1990s the al-Qassam Brigades conducted numerous attacks on Israel, with both civilian and military victims. In April 1993, suicide bombings in the West Bank began.After the February 1994 massacre by Baruch Goldstein of 30 Muslim civilians in a Hebron mosque, the al-Qassam Brigades began suicide attacks inside Israel.
In December 1992 Israel responded to the killing of a border police officer by deporting 415 leading figures of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Lebanon, which provoked international condemnation and a unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning the action.
Although the suicide attacks by the al-Qassam Brigades and other groups violated the 1993 Oslo accords (which Hamas opposed), Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat was reluctant to pursue the attackers and may have had inadequate means to do so. Some analysts state that the Palestinian Authority could have stopped the suicide and other attacks on civilians but refused to do so.
According to the Congressional Research Service, Hamas admitted to having executed Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israeli authorities in the 1990s. A transcript of a training film by the al-Qassam Brigades tells how Hamas operatives kidnapped Palestinians accused of collaboration and then forced confessions before executing them.
In 1996, Yahya Ayash, the chief bombmaker of Hamas and the leader of the West Bank battalion of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was assassinated by the Israeli secret service.
In September 1997, Israeli agents in Jordan attempted but failed to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, leading to chilled relations between the two countries and release of Sheikh Yassin, Hamas’s spiritual leader, from Israeli prison. Two years later Hamas was banned in Jordan, reportedly in part at the request of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. Jordan’s King Abdullah feared the activities of Hamas and its Jordanian allies would jeopardize peace negotiations with Israel, and accused Hamas of engaging in illegitimate activities within Jordan. In mid-September 1999, authorities arrested Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal and Ibrahim Ghosheh on their return from a visit to Iran, and charged them with being members of an illegal organization, storing weapons, conducting military exercises, and using Jordan as a training base. Hamas leaders denied the charges. Mashal was exiled and eventually settled in Syria.
August 2001 Sbarro pizza restaurant bombing in Jerusalem, in which 15 Israeli civilians were killed. Hamas said the attack was in response to Israel’s assassination of its officials, including two senior leaders.
Al-Qassam Brigades militants were among the armed groups that launched both military-style attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilian and military targets during the Second Intifada (also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Arabic: انتفاضة الأقصى, Intifāḍat El Aqṣa; Hebrew: אינתיפאדת אל-אקצה, Intifādat El-Aqtzah), which began in late September 2000. This Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied territories was much more violent than the First Intifada. The military and civilian death toll is estimated at 5500 Palestinians and more than 1100 Israelis, as well as 64 foreigners. A 2007 study of Palestinian suicide bombings during the second intifada(September 2000 through August 2005) found that about 40 percent were carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades.
The immediate trigger for the uprising is disputed, but a more general cause, writes U.S. political science professor Jeremy Pressman, was “popular Palestinian discontent [that] grew during the Oslo peace process because the reality on the ground did not match the expectations created by the peace agreements”. Hamas would be the beneficiary of this growing discontent in the 2006 Palestinian Authority legislative elections.
In January 2004, Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said that the group would end armed resistance against Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, and that restoring Palestinians’ “historical rights” (relating to the 1948 Palestinian exodus) “would be left for future generations”. On January 25, 2004, senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi offered a 10-year truce, or hudna, in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state and the complete withdrawal by Israel from the territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Al-Rantissi stated that Hamas had come to the conclusion that it was “difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation”. Israel immediately dismissed al-Rantissi’s statements as insincere and a smokescreen for military preparations. Yassin was assassinated on March 22, 2004, by a targeted Israeli air strike, and al-Rantisi was assassinated by a similar air strike on April 18, 2004.
2006 presidential and legislative elections
While Hamas boycotted the 2005 Palestinian presidential election, it did participate in the 2005 municipal elections organized by Yasser Arafat in the occupied territories. In those elections it won control of over one third of Palestinian municipal councils, besting Fatah, which had for long been the biggest force in Palestinian politics.
In its election manifesto for the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas omitted a call for an end to Israel, though it did still call for armed struggle against the occupation. Hamas won the 2006 elections, winning 76 of the 132 seats to Fatah’s 43. Seen by many as primarily a rejection of the Fatah government’s corruption and ineffectiveness, the Hamas victory seemingly had brought to an end 40 years of PLO domination of Palestinian politics.
In early February 2006, Hamas offered Israel a 10-year truce “in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories: the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem,” and recognition of Palestinian rights including the “right of return”. Mashal added that Hamas was not calling for a final end to armed operations against Israel, and it would not impede other Palestinian groups from carrying out such operations.
After the election, the Quartet on the Middle East (the United States, Russia, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations) stated that assistance to the Palestinian Authority would only continue if Hamas renounced violence, recognized Israel, and accepted previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, which Hamas refused to do. The Quartet then imposed a freeze on all international aid to the Palestinian territories.
In 2006 after the Gaza election, Hamas leader sent a letter addressed to George W. Bush where he among other things declared that Hamas would accept a state on the 1967 borders including a truce. However, the Bush administration did not reply.
- Electoral Platform for Change and Reform
The Change and Reform List adopts a set of principles stemming from the Islamic tradition that we embrace. We see these principles as agreed upon not only by our Palestinian people, but also by our Arab and Islamic nation as a whole. These principles are:
- True Islam with its civilized achievements and political, economic, social, and legal aspects is our frame of reference and our way of life.
- Historic Palestine is part of the Arab and Islamic land and its ownership by the Palestinian people is a right that does not diminish over time. No military or legal measures will change that right.
- The Palestinian people, wherever they reside, constitute a single and united people and form an integral part of the Arab and Muslim nation … [Quranic verse]. Our Palestinian people are still living a phase of national liberation, and thus they have the right to strive to recover their own rights and end the occupation using all means, including armed struggle. We have to make all our resources available to support our people and defeat the occupation and establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
- The right of return of all Palestinian refugees and displaced persons to their land and properties, and the right to self-determination and all other national rights, are inalienable and cannot be bargained away for any political concessions.
- We uphold the indigenous and inalienable rights of our people to our land, Jerusalem, our holy places, our water resources, borders, and a fully sovereign independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
- Reinforcing and protecting Palestinian national unity is one of the priorities of the Palestinian national action.
- The issue of the prisoners is at the top of the Palestinian agenda.
Legislative policy and reforming the judiciary.
“stress the separation between the three powers, the legislative, executive and judicial; activate the role of the Constitutional Court; re-form the Judicial Supreme Council and choose its members by elections and on the basis of qualifications rather than partisan, personal, and social considerations … ; enact the necessary laws that guarantee the neutrality of general prosecutor … [and] laws that will stop any transgression by the executive power on the constitution”.
Public freedoms and citizen rights.
“Achieve equality before the law among citizens in rights and duties; bring security to all citizens and protect their properties and assure their safety against arbitrary arrest, torture, or revenge; stress the culture of dialogue … ; support the press and media institutions and maintain the right of journalists to access and to publish information; maintain freedom and independence of professional syndicates and preserve the rights of their membership”.
After the formation of the Hamas-led cabinet on March 20, 2006, tensions between Fatah and Hamas militants progressively rose in the Gaza strip as Fatah commanders refused to take orders from the government while the Palestinian Authority initiated a campaign of demonstrations, assassinations and abductions against Hamas, which led to Hamas responding. Israeli intelligence warned Mahmoud Abbas that Hamas had planned to kill him at his office in Gaza. According to a Palestinian source close to Abbas, Hamas considers president Abbas to be a barrier to its complete control over the Palestinian Authority and decided to kill him. In a statement to Al Jazeera, Hamas leader Mohammed Nazzal, accused Abbas of being party to besieging and isolating the Hamas-led government.
On June 9, 2006, during an Israeli artillery operation, an explosion occurred on a busy Gaza beach, killing eight Palestinian civilians. It was assumed that Israeli shellings were responsible for the killings, but Israeli government officials denied this. Hamas formally withdrew from its 16-month ceasefire on June 10, taking responsibility for the subsequent Qassam rocket attacks launched from Gaza into Israel.
On June 25, two Israeli soldiers were killed and another, Gilad Shalit, abducted following an incursion by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Popular Resistance Committees and Army of Islam. In response, the Israeli military launched Operation Summer Rains three days later, to secure the release of the kidnapped soldier, arresting 64 Hamas officials. Among them were 8 Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers and up to 20 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, The arrests, along with other events, effectively prevented the Hamas-dominated legislature from functioning during most of its term.
On February 2007 Saudi-sponsored negotiations in Mecca produced agreement on a signed by Mahmoud Abbas on behalf of Fatah and Khaled Mashal on behalf of Hamas. The new government was called on to achieve Palestinian national goals as approved by the Palestine National Council, the clauses of the Basic Law and the National Reconciliation Document (the “Prisoners’ Document”) as well as the decisions of the Arab summit.
In March 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council established a national unity government, with 83 representatives voting in favor and three against. Government ministers were sworn in by Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, at a ceremony held simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah. In June that year, renewed fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah. In the course of the June 2007 Battle of Gaza, Hamas exploited the near total collapse of Palestinian Authority forces in Gaza, to seize control of Gaza, ousting Fatah officials. President Mahmoud Abbas then dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government. and outlawed the Hamas militia. At least 600 Palestinians died in fighting between Hamas and Fatah. Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based group, accused both sides in the conflict of torture and war crimes.
Human Rights Watch estimates several hundred Gazans were “maimed” and tortured in the aftermath of the Gaza War. 73 Gazan men accused of “collaborating” had their arms and legs broken by “unidentified perpetrators” and 18 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, who had escaped from Gaza’s main prison compound after Israel bombed the facility, were executed by Hamas security officials in the first days of the conflict.
Hamas security forces attacked hundreds Fatah officials who supported Israel. Human Rights Watch interviewed one such person:
“There were eight of us sitting there. We were all from Fatah. Then three masked militants broke in. They were dressed in brown camouflage military uniforms; they all had guns. They pointed their guns at us and cursed us, then they began beating us with iron rods, including a 10-year-old boy whom they hit in the face. They said we were “collaborators” and “unfaithful”.
They beat me with iron sticks and gun butts for 15 minutes. They were yelling: “You are happy that Israel is bombing us!” until people came out of their houses, and they withdrew.
In March 2012 Mahmoud Abbas stated that there were no political differences between Hamas and Fatah as they had reached agreement on a joint political platform and on a truce with Israel. Commenting on relations with Hamas, Abbas revealed in an interview with Al Jazeera that “We agreed that the period of calm would be not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the West Bank,” adding that “We also agreed on a peaceful popular resistance [against Israel], the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and that the peace talks would continue if Israel halted settlement construction and accepted our conditions.”
On June 17, 2008, Egyptian mediators announced that an informal truce had been agreed to between Hamas and Israel. Hamas agreed to cease rocket attacks on Israel, while Israel agreed to allow limited commercial shipping across its border with Gaza, barring any breakdown of the tentative peace deal; Hamas also hinted that it would discuss the release of Gilad Shalit. Israeli sources state that Hamas also committed itself to enforce the ceasefire on the other Palestinian organizations. Even before the truce was agreed to, some on the Israeli side were not optimistic about it, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin stating in May 2008 that a ground incursion into Gaza was unavoidable and would more effectively quell arms smuggling and pressure Hamas into relinquishing power.
Damage to a Beershebakindergarten from a Grad rocket fired from Gaza
While Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire, the lull was sporadically violated by other groups, sometimes in defiance of Hamas. For example, on June 24 Islamic Jihad launched rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot; Israel called the attack a grave violation of the informal truce, and closed its border crossings with Gaza. On November 4, 2008, Israeli forces, in an attempt to stop construction of a tunnel, killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas responded by resuming rocket attacks, a total of 190 rockets in November according to Israel’s military.
With the six-month truce officially expired on December 19, Hamas launched 50 to more than 70 rockets and mortars into Israel over the next three days, though no Israelis were injured. On December 21, Hamas said it was ready to stop the attacks and renew the truce if Israel stopped its “aggression” in Gaza and opened up its border crossings.
On December 27 and 28, Israel implemented Operation Cast Lead against Hamas. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said “We warned Hamas repeatedly that rejecting the truce would push Israel to aggression against Gaza.” According to Palestinian officials, over 280 people were killed and 600 were injured in the first two days of airstrikes. Most were Hamas police and security officers, though many civilians also died. According to Israel, militant training camps, rocket-manufacturing facilities and weapons warehouses that had been pre-identified were hit, and later they attacked rocket and mortar squads who fired around 180 rockets and mortars at Israeli communities. Chief of Gaza police force Tawfiq Jabber, head of the General Security Service Salah Abu Shrakh, senior religious authority and security officer Nizar Rayyan, and Interior Minister Said Seyam were among those killed during the fighting. Although Israel sent out thousands of cell-phone messages urging residents of Gaza to leave houses where weapons may be stored, in an attempt to minimise civilian casualties, some residents complained there was nowhere to go because many neighborhoods had received the same message. Israeli bombs landed close to civilian structures such as schools, and some alleged that Israel was deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians.
Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on January 17, 2009. Hamas responded the following day by announcing a one-week ceasefire to give Israel time to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip. Israeli, Palestinian, and third-party sources disagreed on the total casualty figures from the Gaza war, and the number of Palestinian casualties who were civilians. In November 2010, a senior Hamas official acknowledged that up to 300 fighters were killed and “In addition to them, between 200 and 300 fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades and another 150 security forces were martyred.” These new numbers reconcile the total with those of the Israeli military, which originally said were 709 “terror operatives” killed.
After the Gaza War
On August 16, 2009, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal stated that the organization is ready to open dialogue with the Obama administration because its policies are much better than those of former U.S. president George W. Bush: “As long as there’s a new language, we welcome it, but we want to see not only a change of language, but also a change of policies on the ground. We have said that we are prepared to cooperate with the US or any other international party that would enable the Palestinians to get rid of occupation.”Despite this, an August 30, 2009 speech during a visit to Jordan in which Mashal expressed support for the Palestinian right of return was interpreted by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a sign that “Hamas has now clearly opted out of diplomacy.” In an interview on May 2010, Mashal said that if a Palestinian state with real sovereignty was established under the conditions he set out, on the borders of 1967 with its capital Jerusalem and with the right of return, that will be the end of the Palestinian resistance, and then the nature of any subsequent ties with Israel would be decided democratically by the Palestinians.
In July 2009, Khaled Meshal, Hamas’s political bureau chief, stated Hamas’s willingness to cooperate with a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, provided that Palestinian refugees be given the right to returnto Israel and that East Jerusalem be recognized as the new state’s capital.
In 2011, after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Hamas distanced itself from the Syrian regime and its members began leaving Syria. Where once there were “hundreds of exiled Palestinian officials and their relatives”, that number shrunk to “a few dozen”. In 2012, Hamas publicly announced its support for the Syrian opposition. This prompted Syrian state TV to issue a “withering attack” on the Hamas leadership. Khaled Meshal said that Hamas had been “forced out” of Damascus because of its disagreements with the Syrian regime. In late October, Syrian Army soldiers shot dead two Hamas leaders in Daraa refugee camp. On November 5, 2012, the Syrian state security forces shut down all Hamas offices in the country. In January 2013, another two Hamas members were found dead in Syria’s Husseinieh camp. Activists said the two had been arrested and executed by state security forces. In 2013, it was reported that the military wing of Hamas had begun training units of the Free Syrian Army.
In 2013, after “several intense weeks of indirect three-way diplomacy between representatives of Hamas, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority”, no agreement was reached. Also, intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks stalled and, as a result, during Obama’s visit to Israel, Hamas launched five rocket strikes on Israel. In November, Isra Almodallal was appointed the first spokeswoman of the group.
As of 2009 the Council on Foreign Relations estimates Hamas’s annual budget at $70 million.
In the early 2000s, the largest backer of Hamas was Saudi Arabia, with over 50% of its funds coming from that country, mainly through Islamic charity organizations. An earlier estimate by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated a $50 million annual budget, mostly supplied by private charitable associations but with $12 million supplied directly by Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, and a further $3 million from Iran. In 2002, a Saudi Arabian charity, the Saudi Council to Support the Palestinian Intefada run by then Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz stated the council will give the families of 102 Hamas militants killed, including eight suicide bombers, $5,340 each.
Saudi owned al-Taqwa Bank has been identified of holding money for Hamas as early as 1997. Jamie C. Zarate, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department, told Congress that 60 million was moved to Hamas accounts with Al Taqwa bank. The Al Taqwa bank has also been used to launder funds for Al Qaeda. The funding by Saudi Arabia continued despite Saudi pledges to stop funding groups such as Hamas that have used violence, and its recent denouncements of Hamas’ lack of unity with Fatah. According to the U.S. State Department, Hamas is funded by Iran, Palestinian expatriates, and “private benefactors in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states”. Saudi spokesman Adel Al Jubeir said, “no Saudi government money goes to Hamas, directly or indirectly.” He added that it “very likely” that “some Saudi individuals” have provided financial support to Hamas.
In 2004, reports citing unidentified U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials indicated that Saudi funding for Hamas had been curtailed and replaced by other regional sponsors. In June 2004 testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, former Treasury Department General Counsel David Aufhauser quoted “informed intelligence sources” as saying, “for whatever reason, the money going to Hamas from Saudi Arabia has substantially dried up.” Aufhauser indicated that Saudi financial support “has been supplemented by money from Iran and Syria flowing through even more dangerous rejectionist groups in the West Bank”. Similarly, Israeli daily Maariv quoted in 2004 an unidentified Israeli military official as saying that “for the first time in years the Saudis have begun to reduce the flow of funds to Hamas and to the Gaza Strip.” This source attributes this change largely to U.S. pressure on Saudi Arabia to stem the flow of funding to Hamas and terrorist organizations. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), another reported funding source for Hamas is through the 21,000 Arabs of Palestinian and Lebanese descent who live in the Foz do Iguaçu area of the tri-border region of Latin America. According to Paraguayan Interior Minister Julio César Fanego, they have donated “something between $50 and $500 million” to 16 Arab extremist groups between 1999 and 2001, in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,000.
In the late 1980s, 10% of all Hamas funding came from the Islamic Republic of Iran. Later, from 1993 to 2006, Iran provided Hamas with approximately US$30 million annually. More recent assessments indicate that Iranian funding has increased significantly between 2006 and 2009, to hundreds of millions of Euros per year. After 2009, sanctions on Iran made funding difficult, forcing Hamas instead to rely on religious donations by individuals in the West Bank, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Since June 2011, funding from the Islamic Republic of Iran has been cut to show “displeasure at Hamas’s failure to hold public rallies in support of President [Bashar al-] Assad” during the Syrian civil war, and funding from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been cut so the Muslim Brotherhood can diverts funds “to support Arab Spring revolts”. The shortages have meant that Gaza’s 40,000 civil service and security employees were not paid July 2011.
Hamas-linked charities in 2010 invested heavily in Gaza business ventures, with the condition that much of revenue stream from those ventures go to Hamas-linked charitable purposes in Gaza. Generally, Hamas and its members have increasingly dominated the Gaza economy, in particular since the 2006 Israel-led blockade of Gaza and Gaza elections.
Gaza domestic funding
Hamas approved a 540-million-dollar government budget for 2010 with up to 90% coming from “undisclosed” foreign aid, which includes funding from Iran and Egypt‘s Muslim Brotherhood according to western intelligence agencies. Due to the Gaza blockade, Hamas still faces a financial crisis. With a bureaucracy of around 30,000 staff, the organisation is growing faster than can be handled, with salaries being delayed or prioritised for the lowest paid. To fund its budget, Hamas has raised new taxes on businesses and imposed a 14.5% tax on luxury goods smuggled through the tunnels. Gaza businessmen have accused Hamas of profiting from the blockade and using these taxes to buy large tracts of land and private buildings for public facilities in competition to established businesses.
In August 2011, the U.S State Department threatened to cut 100 million dollars in aid it sends to the Gaza Strip if Hamas continues to insist upon auditing American foreign aid organizations after Hamas suspended operations of the International Medical Corpsfollowing the group’s refusal to submit to an on-site audit. Most foreign charities submit their own audits to the Interior Ministry in Ramallah. Charities must be audited by law, possibly to ensure money is not diverted for political or intelligence-gathering purposes but as the U.S. government forbids direct contact with Hamas, the action prompted Washington to issue the threat via a third party. Aid provided by American and other foreign groups goes to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, where most of the 1.6 million residents are refugees.
A U.S. official based in the region said “USAID-funded partner organizations operating in Gaza are forced by Hamas’s actions to suspend their assistance work. (They) were put on hold effective August 12.” According to the official, Hamas demanded access to files and records of NGOs, which would reveal financial and administrative information, details of staff members and information on beneficiaries. He said Hamas shut down IMC and USAID after the U.S. objected to “unwarranted audits”. Hamas administration officialTaher al-Nono said Hamas had a right to monitor their work in the territory but an understanding had been reached that would allow independent auditing teams to inspect the files of NGOs.
A day after the U.S. announced it was suspending financial aid to Gaza, Hamas officials said they had reached an agreement with the United States that would allow USAID to continue operations.
In August 2011, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip imposed new travel restrictions on Palestinians active in non-governmental organizations by requiring them to provide details of the trip to the ministry in what the Palestinian NGO Network regards as another Hamas attempt to control and hamper them. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the new laws. Tharut al Bic, head of the interior ministry’s NGO department, stated, “the new instructions are intended to make it easier for travellers to better organize their trip and to preserve order.” Hamas requires sick people wishing to leave the Gaza Strip to submit applications and meet various conditions, in addition to restrictions Israel imposes on Palestinians leaving Gaza.
In 2005, Hamas announced its intention to launch an experimental TV channel, Al-Aqsa TV. The station was launched on January 7, 2006, less than three weeks before the Palestinian legislative elections. It has shown television programs, including some children’s television, which deliver anti-semitic messages. Hamas has stated that the television station is “an independent media institution that often does not express the views of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh or of the Hamas movement,” and that Hamas does not hold anti-semitic views.
In the Gaza Strip
From 1987 to 1991, during the first intifada, Hamas campaigned for the wearing of the hijab alongside other measures, including insisting women stay at home and be segregated from men, and the promotion of polygamy. In the course of this campaign, women who chose not to wear the hijab were verbally and physically harassed, with the result that the hijab was being worn ‘just to avoid problems on the streets’.
Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, some of its members have attempted to impose Islamic dress or the hijab head covering on women. Also, the government’s “Islamic Endowment Ministry” has deployed Virtue Committee members to warn citizens of the dangers of immodest dress, card playing, and dating. However, there are no government laws imposing dress and other moral standards, and the Hamas education ministry reversed one effort to impose Islamic dress on students. There has also been successful resistance to attempts by local Hamas officials to impose Islamic dress on women.
Hamas officials deny having any plans to impose Islamic law, one legislator stating that “What you are seeing are incidents, not policy,” and that Islamic law is the desired standard “but we believe in persuasion”. The Hamas education ministry reversed one effort to impose Islamic dress on students. In March 2010, the BBC interviewed five “middle-class” women in Gaza City in March 2010, and all indicated there had been little or no change toward more conservative dress and mores.
In 2013, UNRWA canceled its annual marathon in Gaza after Hamas rulers prohibited women from participating in the race.
In the West Bank
In 2005, the human rights organization Freemuse released a report titled “Palestine: Taliban-like attempts to censor music”, which said that Palestinian musicians feared that harsh religious laws against music and concerts will be imposed since Hamas group scored political gains in the Palestinian Authority local elections of 2005.
The attempt by Hamas to dictate a cultural code of conduct in the 1980s and early 1990s led to a violent fighting between different Palestinian sectors. Hamas members reportedly burned down stores that stocked videos they deemed indecent and destroyed books they described as “heretical”.
In 2005, an outdoor music and dance performance in Qalqiliya were suddenly banned by the Hamas led municipality, for the reason that such an event would be forbidden by Islam, or “Haram“. The municipality also ordered that music no longer be played in the Qalqiliya zoo, and mufti Akrameh Sabri issued a religious edict affirming the municipality decision. In response, the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish warned that “There are Taliban-type elements in our society, and this is a very dangerous sign.”
The Palestinian columnist Mohammed Abd Al-Hamid, a resident of Ramallah, wrote that this religious coercion could cause the migration of artists, and said “The religious fanatics in Algeria destroyed every cultural symbol, shattered statues and rare works of art and liquidated intellectuals and artists, reporters and authors, ballet dancers and singers – are we going to imitate the Algerian and Afghani examples?”
Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey as a role model
Some Hamas members stated that the model of Islamic government that Hamas seeks to emulate is that of Turkey under the rule of Tayyip Erdoğan. The foremost members to distance Hamas from the practices of Taliban and to publicly support the Erdoğan model were Ahmad Yousef and Ghazi Hamad, advisers to Prime Minister Hanieh. Yusuf, the Hamas deputy foreign minister, reflected this goal in an interview to a Turkish newspaper, stating that while foreign public opinion equates Hamas with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, the analogy is inaccurate. Yusuf described the Taliban as “opposed to everything,” including education and women’s rights, while Hamas wants to establish good relations between the religious and secular elements of society and strives for human rights, democracy and an open society. According to professor Yezid Sayigh of the