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Israel: Civil-Military Relations
Country Study > Chapter 4 > Government and Politics > Civil-Military Relations


The supremacy of civilian authorities over the military has rarely been challenged in Israel's history. The Lavon affair of 1954 remains the major exception. Factors weighing against military interference have included the prohibition on active officers engaging in politics and the population's broad support for the nonpartisan behavior of the armed forces. Given the ever-present external threat to Israeli security, however, the military looms large in everyday life. This has led some foreign observers to call Israel a "garrison democracy." The military has also served as a channel into politics, with political activity providing a "second career" for retired or reservist officers after they complete their military careers, usually between the ages of forty and fifty. This phenomenon has left its mark on Israeli politics as high-ranking retired or reservist IDF figures have often "parachuted" into the leadership ranks of political parties and public institutions.

The most frequent instances of this tendency have occurred during the demobilization of officers in postwar periods, for example, following the 1948, 1967, and 1973 wars. Until the June 1967 War, the great majority of reservist or retired officers joined Labor's ranks. In the 1950s, the first generation of such officers included Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Yigal Yadin, Israel Galilee, and Chaim Herzog. After 1967, the number of such officers co-opted into the political elite rose sharply, with many for the first time joining center-right parties. Among those joining the Labor Party were Yitzhak Rabin, Haim Bar-Levand Rafael Eitan was chief of staff (1979-83); both individuals had stressed the independent policy role of the IDF.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Israel was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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