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, when following a confrontation regarding the weapons it brought resulted in a battle between Irgun members and the newly created IDF. It ended when the ship 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 8th armored 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.
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 attrition against 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 made and more time was dedicated to training for conventional warfare. However, in the following years the army's role slowly shifted again to low-intensity conflict, urban warfare and counter-terrorism. It was involved in the Lebanese Civil War, initiating Operation 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.
Read more about this topic: Israeli Soldiers
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