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Israel: Command Structure
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Israel Defense Forces > Command Structure


The IDF had no commander in chief designated as such. The Basic Law: The Army, 1976, vested command in the government. In fact, the minister of defense acted as the highest authority over the IDF and was its link to civilian political authorities. The minister of defense was a civilian (although usually a retired military officer). The cabinet was required to give prior approval to major military policies and operations. Under normal circumstances, the standing Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the cabinet exercised this responsibility. The invasion of Lebanon in 1982 demonstrated, however, that a domineering minister of defense could, by misleading the cabinet or withholding information, act contrary to the government's wishes. Periodic reports on the status of the military were provided to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, through its Foreign Affairs and National Security Committee and on budgetary matters through the Finance Committee.

The highest ranking IDF officer, the only officer to hold the rank of lieutenant general, was the chief of staff, who was chairman of the general staff and was responsible to the minister of defense. The general staff was in charge of "professional" matters, such as organization, training, and the planning and execution of military operations. The chief of staff in late 1988, Lieutenant General Dan Shomron, had held the position since April 1987. He was appointed by the minister of defense for a term that was nominally three years but that could be shortened or extended. Within the Ministry of Defense, the senior civilian officer beneath the minister was the director general, who supervised defense production, infrastructure, the budget, and other administrative and technical matters. As the supreme commander of the IDF, however, the minister of defense could intervene in all IDF matters

The general staff had as its members the chief of general staff branch (operations), the chiefs of manpower, logistics, and intelligence; the three area commanders; and the commanding officers of the air force, navy, and ground corps. The ground corps commander was responsible for training, doctrine, and development of equipment for the four combat corps of paratroop/infantry, armor, artillery, and engineers. Operational control of the ground forces went through a separate chain of command from the chief of staff directly to the three area commanders -- Northern (forces facing Syria and Lebanon); Central (forces facing Jordan); and Southern (forces facing Egypt) -- who in turn exercised command over divisions and brigades.

The navy and air force were not, nor had ever been, designated as separate services. Officially known as the Sea Corps (Hel Yam) and the Air Corps (Hel Avir), the navy and air force, however, enjoyed more autonomy within the IDF structure than their official designations would suggest. Their commanders had the status of senior advisers to the chief of staff. Along with the ground force area commanders, the commanders of the air force and navy held two-star rank.

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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Section 164 of 206


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