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
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
- Love of the Homeland and Loyalty to the Country
- Human Dignity
- Other values
The Engineering Corps's Atomic-Biological-Chemical Unit
- Tenacity of Purpose in Performing Missions and Drive to Victory
- Personal Example
- Human Life
- Purity of Arms
- Sense of Mission
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. East-Jerusalem), soldiers' lives protection takes priority over avoiding injury to enemy civilians. Some, along with Avishai Margalit and Michael 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".