Useful Notes: Israelis with Infrared Missiles

The Merkava Mk.4. Cool Tank and Awesome Personnel Carrier rolled into one. And yes, it can shoot missiles too.
"Masada shall not fall again."
Lieutenant General Moshe Dayan

צבא הגנה לישראל Tzva Haganah LeYisra'el,note  known in English as the Israel Defense Forces, or Tzahal (from its Hebrew acronym) to its friends. Formed in 1948 from the various factions of the time, involved in at least one war per decade, usually against numerically superior Arab forces, all won, except for the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, which is up for debate (depending on whether you consider victory to be decided by kill ratio or objectives achieved). In terms of flying skills (as measured in tactical exercises vs American and NATO forces) the IDF has some of the best pilots in the world. This is also evidenced by their very good record against Arab aircraft, even if said aircraft are downgraded export versions of Soviet stuff—though for most of the wars, Israel's aircraft was even worse. (Israel is partly able to make up for it with superior mobilization, this can be considered a real life example of Conservation of Ninjutsu). As a result, if you're looking for an Ace Pilot post WWII, Israel (or Pakistan) should be the first place you check.

The State of Israel uses universal conscription of both sexes for all Jewish Citizens. This has resulted in the IDF gaining a reputation for hot female soldiers, although many girls, particularly religious ones, fulfill this obligation by doing National Service, instead of serving in the Army. Many Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jews are excused from service in order to study at religious schools (there are some Ultra-Orthodox who do serve, and at least one military base designed specifically for their needs). This exemption is very controversial amongst secular Israelis, who feel the Haredim get a free pass, and there have been efforts to lift it (in addition to being considered unfair, it is also hoped that serving in the army would allow Haredi youth to learn practical skills and become more engaged in Israeli society as a whole. It is suspected that part of the resistance amongst the Haredi community is for exactly this reason). Israeli Druze also have to serve, as do male Circassians (a mostly Muslim Caucasian minority that moved to Israel after their homeland was invaded by Russia in the 19th century). Non-Druze Arabs are excused, although some do volunteer (largely Bedouins and Palestinian Christians).

Israel's principal military supplier until the early 1960s was France. The United States became Israel's major supplier after the Six Day War and remains so until the present day. However, over the decades Israel has developed its own defense industry, developing, among others, a number of local aircraft, an indigenously developed series of main battle tanks and APCs, several types of missile boats, various firearms, rocket and missile systems, combat related robots, electronic warfare systems and a wide range of UAVs. Despite this, what most people would probably say when asked what weapon was made in Israel, would probably be "the Uzi".

Israel was also the first export customer for the F-15 Eagle and first to use it, as well as the F-16 Fighting Falcon, in combat. The Israeli air force is still responsible for over half the air to air kills for both fighters to this day.

Due to Israel's universal conscription, it is often assumed that all Israeli adults have military training, and are therefore combat capable. This is not entirely true, as Arabs (but not Druze or Circassians) are exempt from conscription, and previously so were ultra-Orthodox Jews (their exemption is in the process of being phased out due to Israeli courts ruling it unconstitutional), and usually do not serve. Also a non-negligible percentage of the population that does need to serve avoids it anyway. So not all Israelis have military training... just most of them. It's also important to note that most of the IDF's personnel are non-combat soldiers that have only a very basic combat training.

Officially Israel neither confirms nor denies possessing nuclear weapons. Everyone is pretty sure they possess them anyway.

Related to this is the Israeli intelligence service. The Mossad (the Israeli counterpart to the CIA) is infamous for carrying out assassinations, as well as being very good at their job in general.

See also: Arab-Israeli Conflict, The Samson Option.

Tropes include:

  • Acceptable Targets: Typically, incidents of violence carried out by Palestinians or Arab Israelis provoke widespread condemnation, get lots of media attention, and sometimes provide a pretext for the government to enact further oppressive legislation against such minority groups in their entirety or even to carry out military strikes in retaliation. Settler violence against Palestinians, however, generally receives much less coverage.
    • To take one recent example, the world reacted with consternation and horror to the brutal killings of five people at a West Jerusalem synagogue in November 2014. This was an entirely appropriate response. However, the shootings of three Palestinian children by the IDF in separate incidents over the preceding week went comparatively unnoticed by the international community.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: This actually worked, albeit haphazardly, until 1973.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Merkava is this and a Cool Tank at the same time.
  • Badass Army
  • Badass Israeli: The IDF is naturally a noted hangout of these.
  • Berserk Button: Aqaba was this during the Six-day War.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Early on, Israel had almost no weapons to speak of, and were willing to take whatever they could get. One example is their use of WWII era M4 Sherman tanks throughout the Cold War. Despite being obsolete, the Israelis aggressively upgraded the Shermans to the point where they could engage (and even curbstomp!) Soviet Cold War era tanks.
  • Catch Phrase: Several, some officially supported by IDF culture and some unofficial truisms emergent from the lower ranks:
    "(...)send Gaza back to the Middle Ages, only then will Israel be calm for the next 40 years." -Interior Minister Eli Yishai, 2012
    "These orders were written in blood." note 
    "Results - not excuses."
    "Difficult in training - easy in battle."
    "That's all we have, that's what we'll win with."
    "Painted is new; wet is clean; piled-up is neat; bureks are festive." note 
    "If it moves, salute it. If it doesn't move, pick it up. If you can't pick it up, paint it white."
    "I was born crying; When I was drafted, I realized why."
    "What doesn't work with smarts, will work with strength. What doesn't work with strength, will work with more strength."note 
    "The man in the tank will win."note 
    "The man in the missile will win."note 
    "When you see a sniper, don't run - you'll die tired."
    "If I don't get to fly, NO ONE gets to fly." note 
  • Cool Plane: One of the best airforces in the world. And it's not just because they have cool planes. Check out the story of Ziv Nedivi.
  • Cool Tank: Israelis love these.
  • Conscription: This allows Israel to punch above its weight in numbers. Its effects on Israel in peace are debatable. While military experience helps with problem-solving and taking initiative, it also has difficulty translating to civilian management.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Fairly common due to historically being on the wrong side of numerical odds:
    • War of IndependenceArab Name : On the day after Israel was created, Yishuv/IDF forces fended off an invasion by all of Israel's Arab neighbors and then some.
    • Six Day WarArab Name : The IDF launched a preemptive attack destroying most of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. They then soundly defeated their Arab adversaries.
    • Yom-Kippur WarArab Name : On Yom-Kippurnote , during the month of Ramadannote , Egypt and Syria coordinated a surprise attack on Israel. After several ill-advised counterattacks into the teeth of entrenched Arab forces, the IDF routed Arab forces until the United States and Soviet Union stepped in to broker a cease-fire.
    • Raid on Entebbe: A 1976 hostage rescue in Uganda, special enough to feature Charles Bronson in a fairly accurate film about it.
    • Operation Opera: A 1981 airstrike carried out against the Iraqi ''Osirak'' nuclear reactor, flying 14 aircraft nearly a thousand miles over Arab territory to strike a target just outside of Baghdad.note 
  • Crowning Moment of Funny: Several soldiers on patrol being hit with a surprise attack of Ke Sha music... and dancing to it.
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: After the Battle of Ismailia in the 1973 war and the announcement of the armistice, the Israelis got to know the Egyptian commandos they had been fighting. Soon, the Egyptians and Israelis would meet daily, drinking coffee, playing backgammon and soccer, getting to personally know each other.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: The Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, which means "the hope", though not all agree.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Six Day War proved to be one of the most one-sided wars in history.
  • Death from Above: Famously decisive during the Six Day War. Israeli preemptive airstrikes gained them air supremacy over the Arab powers for the entire war. On the first day of the 1982 Lebanon War, the IDF destroyed scores of Syrian aircraft and missile batteries with zero losses.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Attack Israeli targets, and Mossad's kidon unit will hunt you down and kill you anywhere on earth. Failing that, they'll settle for killing harmless bystanders who just happen to share your ethnicity.
    • Also, if you have the audacity to lob some home-made rockets into Israeli territory from the open-air prison where you and your people have been trapped for years, the IDF will have no qualms about bombing the living heck out of you, murdering hundreds of your children, and then making up a nice, harmless-sounding name for the attack like "Summer Rains" or "Protective Edge".
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Yoni Netanyahu at Entebbe.
  • Determined Homesteader: Kibbutzim
  • Eagle Squadron: The Jewish Brigade in World War II serving in the British Army (this only partially counts as Britain was their Feudal Overlord at the time. But it was recruited in that spirit.). Also a number of foreigners during the '48 war.
  • Easily Forgiven: Ariel Sharon served as Israel's Defense Minister during the Lebanon War, and was personally responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, during which as many as 3500 Palestinian and Lebanese refugees were brutally murdered by Phalangist militias. Luckily for Sharon, the Israeli electorate don't let little things like war crimes cloud their impeccable political judgement, and he served as Prime Minister of the country from 2001 to 2006.
  • Elite Army: They certainly seem like one, given the incredibly lopsided casualty ratios of the conflicts they get involved in.
  • Enemy Mine: They had a briefly cooperated with Iran during the Iran–Iraq War, providing military advisers, money, and weapons, as well as bombing an Iraqi nuclear reactor during Operation Opera, mostly because they really hated Saddam Hussein. This was in contrast to their ally the United States, who regarded Iran as the bigger threat.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Moshe Dayan
  • Fatal Flaw: Due to Israel being small, the IDF was, for a great period of time, infallibly aggressive. This has historically been at the cost of:
    • Logistics, leading to the near-failure of the Sinai counter-offensive in the Six-Day War due to almost all the Israeli tanks running out of fuel.
    • Common Sense, which led to half the Israeli armored force dashing itself to shreds against Egyptian anti-tank defenses in October of 1973 before Ariel Sharon wised up.
  • Faux Action Girl: The great majority of female soldiers in the IDF, who serve in non-combat divisions.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: Ironically, of course, the homeland Zionists were fighting for before and during the War of Independence was already inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had been living there peacefully for centuries. The famous aphorism "A Land Without A People For A People Without A Land" neatly glossed over this inconvenient reality.
  • Feudal Overlord: The British Empire. Israel was a working nation long before official independence. This is one reason it survived the '48 war. However it was officially a dependent on The British Empire.
  • Improvised Weapon: The Haganah used to make bullets out of lipstick tubes.
    • Actually, they created bullets in secret and pretending that they were lipstick tubes. The real thing wouldn't make a very good bullet. They also hid weapons inside of milk cans and explosives in gas tanks of trucks to hide them from the Brits.
  • Initiation Ceremony: For most units, basic training concludes with a long march to a historically or otherwise significant site (depending on the unit, usually Masada or the Western Wall) to be sworn into the IDF and receive their corps berets.
    • These are actually two different ceremonies; there's the Swearing-In, towards the beginning of basic training, which usually takes place at Masada or the Western Wall, and then there's the Beret Ceremony, marking the end of basic training, which takes place at any one of a number of different locations, depending on the unit.
  • Irony: Due to their almost single-minded emphasis on individual initiative, rapid victories, and maneuver warfare, the IDF best resembles the operational doctrine of the Wehrmacht.
    • For an additional layer, IDF infantry were originally armed largely with surplus weapons seized from Nazi stockpiles. They acquired weapons from absolutely anywhere they could find them, and there was was no larger source of weapons in the world than the now-disbanded Wehrmacht's stockpiles. Some even still had swastika designs engraved or enamelled on (the first thing IDF men did was scratch them out with rocks)
      • The first ever fighter aircraft acquired by Israel? The Messerschmitt Bf109.
    • Who provided Israel with heavy water to boost their nuclear power - and eventually making them capable of making their own bombs? Norway, of all nations...
    • Even the name of the page itself for most of the IA Fs history is ironic. Many Israeli pilots actually HATED missiles, and often refereed to them as 'drop tanks' note , and preferred mixing it up in the merge with enemy fighters. One can't argue with the results however. Of the 105 kills the F-15 Eagle has to its name, roughly half are credited to IAF Pilots. On top of this, the IAF is the ONLY Air Force that has used the F-15s 20mm Vulcan in a dogfight. note 
    • The tragic irony of the creation of Israel: the state was founded in 1948 as a refuge for those who had, for centuries, been dispossessed, ghettoized, and slaughtered. But in order to build that state, early Zionist militias used those very tactics to forcibly remove tens of thousands of Palestinians from the land they claimed as their birthright. The process by which Palestinians are dispossessed, ghettoized and slaughtered continues to this day through the illegal occupation of the OPT, the Gaza siege and bombing campaigns, the West Bank Wall, the settlement program, and the 50-odd Israeli laws which directly discriminate against citizens of Arab origin, all of which are entirely state-sanctioned, and enabled by American aid and diplomatic support.
  • Memetic Mutation: When a squad of IDF soldiers broke out into Kesha Dance in Hebron.
  • Mighty Glacier: The armored D9 bulldozer is a 65-ton behemoth that will slowly but surely raze anything to the ground, and can endure attacks that would destroy most other vehicles. For this reason, it has proved extremely useful in demolishing the houses of those Palestinians unfortunate enough to be in the way of expanding settlements in the West Bank, or to have a relative in the fedayeen.
  • The Migration
  • Mildly Military: Ironically for a force so reputed, the IDF has historically been lax on discipline, even touting it as something that lesser armies need. This has, on occasion, bitten the IDF in the ass.
    • In particular, the Golani Brigade is known for both its fighting prowess and its discipline problems.
  • No Sympathy: What, the inhabitants of Gaza are upset because the IDF bombed UN schools, shot children playing on Gaza beach, and killed over 4000 people during 2014's Operation Protective Edge? Well, they should have thought of that before voting Hamas into power. And it doesn't count as collective punishment if we're defending ourselves.
  • One-Man Army: Zvika Greengold.
  • Open Secret: Israel's nukes. They haven't officially revealed them yet, but when then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accidentally (or perhaps accidentally on purpose) said (or at least implied with barely less subtlety than actually setting off one of the nukes) that Israel had nukes in a speech in 2006, the world barely noticed. Of course, there isn't much reason to keep a nuclear arsenal secret—the main point of having it is intimidating the other side not to attack, something a secret doomsday device isn't so good at. The reason for Israel going this route is strategic. Israel's potential regional enemies (e.g. Iran, Iraq, Egyptnote ) know it has nukes, and are thus deterred from military action that would threaten Israel's existence. They can't acquire their own nukes because they're parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which forbids owning any (except for the US, Soviet Union/Russia, China, the UK and France) and subjects them to IAEA inspections. And they can't withdraw from the NPT without an "imminent threat" to their security (such as a nearby rival having nukes already), which officially doesn't exist because Israel officially refuses to confirm anything.note  In other words, it's an endless cycle of I Know You Know I Know and Willful Blindness on both sides. This serves the interests of both Arabs and Israelis: the Israelis get their security and their neighbors get a good reason not to fight Israel and also keep the Middle East a nominal nuclear-weapons-free zone; the ambiguity also spares the regional powers the expense of developing their own weapons programs. (Israel's interest, by the way, does not include the fear of IAEA inspections, as many Israelis claim; Israel is not a party to the NPT and unlikely to become one in the foreseeable future, so it's not subject to inspections, and declaring its stockpile would have no effect on that—any Israeli politician mentioning inspections is just trying to scare you.)
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Israel has a smaller territory and population then several states in the area, and it is probably the most feared. Of course, receiving billions in US military aid doesn't hurt.
    • In this case, "smaller territory" works out to "about 200 miles long, and about one third of that at its widest."
  • Propaganda Machine: The IDF frequently disseminate infographics and other forms of propaganda through their official social media platforms. These often feature exaggerated Israeli casualty figures, and trite slogans justifying their operations in the Gaza Strip, suggesting that every school, mosque and home in the region contains a hidden arsenal of rockets aimed at Israel.
  • Proud Warrior Race: This actually goes all the way back to the ancient Hebrews, who were renowned as warriors.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The IDF has, I shit you not, designed a gun which consists of a rifle with a stuffed cat on the end of it. The entire purpose is to cause the enemy to hesitate in firing at a "cat", thus giving the Israeli time to get a few shots of their own in.
    • Like most similarly crazy/idiotic ideas devised by armies through history, it (sadly?) didn't see much use in actual combat, ever.
    • Operation Noa. Israel paid France to build a set of missile boats, and then France imposed an arms embargo and refused to deliver the goods. So over the course of several weeks, all the people necessary to man the boats went to Europe in ones and twos, making their way to Cherbourg while in the guise of tourists. They even bought the supplies necessary for eight days of sea travel at local grocery stores. Then, on Christmas Eve, they simply walked in and stole the boats.
  • The Scrounger: On one notable occasion, one Haganah agent was negotiating with a Czech Arms Dealer. To get the money needed he had to collect it from private contributions, doing things like walking into the local Jewish quarter and drumming up money.
  • Storming the Castle: Entebbe
    • The attack on the fortified Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Twice. Once when the Haganah learned to hunt down Arab guerrillas during the Arab revolt against the British (One British writer said: "They discovered that they were soldiers."). And in the Six-Day War when they surprised everyone by how much they had changed from the Militia they once were.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: The British Officer Orde Wingate did this for the Haganah militia. Including a 20-year-old Ruth Westheimer, trained as a sniper and wounded in the '48 war. "Pint-Sized Powerhouse", indeed.
  • Trigger Happy: Understandably so, according to some - they are surrounded on all sides by nations that are not only hostile but want to end Israel's existence. Then there are the Palestinian freedom fighters, who operate from urban areas.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Many of the Arabs during the '48 thought it was going to be an easy victory. The Jordanians who lived next to them knew differently. The reverse was true in 1973, when the IDF and Israel in general completely failed to anticipate Egypt's attack, and underestimated how difficult it would be to repel.
  • Up Through the Ranks: The majority of the Israeli officer corps qualifies, since they have no officer candidate schools.
  • Well-intentioned Extremist: Israel has a history of justifying horrific acts by claiming that they were crucial to the defense of the nation. This is hard to argue with, because it's true that the country is surrounded by extremely hostile neighbors. However, in cases like 2014's Operation Protective Edge, during which one Israeli child and over 400 Palestinian children were killed, the phrase "self-defense" begins to sound a little hollow.
    • Also the Zionist militias active before and during the 1948 war. These groups, which included the Irgun, the Lehi and the Haganah, engaged in terrorist attacks against UN personnel, British forces, and Palestinian villagers in Mandatory Palestine. Their activities included the destruction of numerous Palestinian communities and the slaughter of their inhabitants, several hotel bombings, letter bombs sent to British officials and President Truman (Lehi), and the assassination of UN mediator Folke Bernadotte, also by Lehi. This last incident was particularly ironic, as Bernadotte had negotiated the release of tens of thousands of Jewish prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. It seems that Lehi believed him to be too pro-Arab.
    "every Jew had the right to enter Palestine; only active retaliation would deter the Arab and the British; only Jewish armed force would ensure the Jewish state" -Revisionist Zionist ideology of Irgun
  • Worthy Opponent: The Jordanian Arab Legion, the only Arab military that consistently held its own against the IDF. The West Bank would probably still be Jordanian if the IAF hadn't destroyed almost the entire Royal Jordanian Air Force in the first day of the Six-Day War, granting the IDF the advantage of air support.
  • You Shall Not Pass: The Seventh Armored Brigade on the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War. In particular, one guy - Zvika Greengold.
    • Although it was Avigdor "Yanosh" Ben-Gal who actually uttered almost the exact phrase during the battle. Ben-Gal was the commander of the 7th armored brigade, which by October 9th was down to 17 Centurion tanks and was under attack by the Syrian 7th division, which had over a thousand T-62 tanks and a comparable numbers of APC's and artillery pieces. Ben-Gal told his men, "They will not pass through. The fate of Israel rests on your shoulders. They will not pass." Even though the 7th brigade lost another ten tanks by nightfall, they managed to hold on, and Ben-Gal was made a general after the war.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Being an Iron Woobie for 2000 years does get rather tiresome.

The IDF in fiction:

  • Herman Wouk's novels The Hope and The Glory
  • Mirage by James Follett, a spy thriller detailing exactly * how* the Israelis managed to get the Mirage aircraft from the French.
  • Spooks Accidentally kills about 70 kids in a Gaza school
  • Eagle in the Sky- A Wilbur Smith novel that features a South African join the IDF, then get thrown out after chasing Syrian fighters into Syria, losing his wingman and getting disfigured in the process.
  • Independence Day - In an interesting example of... optimism... Israeli and Syrian pilots hide aircraft in the Golan heights and launch a combined attack on the alien fleet after the American example.
  • Operation Yonatan
  • The Zombie Survival Guide: An Israeli paratrooper platoon stops a zombie outbreak in an Egyptian village in the 70's. Trading zombies as biological weapons leads to the Egypt-Israel detente.
    • World War Z, from the same Verse; the IDF ends up enforcing a voluntary quarantine of the country after the Outbreaks begin, and has to fight a civil war with the ultra-orthodox as a result of this and other security and practical measures.
  • Yossi & Jagger
  • Waltz with Bashir is a complete deconstruction of this trope.
  • Y: The Last Man: Being the only people in the region to employ female soldiers puts Israel in a strong position when all the men die. IDF leader Alter becomes a major antagonist in the series.
  • Tom Clancy's Endwar: Israel is officially neutral in World War III, but very, very quietly aids and supports the European Federation.
  • Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears opens during the Yom Kippur War, where a nuclear armed IDF aircraft is lost in action, providing the MacGuffin for the plot. In modern times, as part of the peace agreement the US Army's 11th Cavalry is stationed in Israel, and as part of their training plays wargames against the IDF.
  • While not precisely a member of the IDF, Earth Force Colonel Ari Ben-Zayn (a one-shot character) from Babylon 5 plays on all the tropes about the suspicion and toughness of Israeli soldiers—and has a massive scar to show for it. Ben-Zayn loosely translates to "Son of a Gun", and is also slang for dick, so that makes it a Bilingual Bonus with several layers.
  • You Don't Mess with the Zohan parodies this trope to no end with Zohan (Not an Israeli name) Dvir (An Israeli name), a supersoldier who can do push ups with no hands, kick two people at the same time, leap over walls, run on ceilings, and feel no pain from a piranha in the swim-suit. He has a Palestinian equivalent called the Fantom, too.
  • The IDF is a playable faction in the Battlefield 2 mod Project Reality.
  • The "all Israelis have military training" is invoked in Vortex by Larry Bond and Patrick Larkin. In order to take out South Africa's nuclear arsenal, the US military enlists the aid of an Israeli professor who helped the South Africans develop said arsenal. The original plan called for the professor to train the American commandos in disarming nuclear warheads. When developments force the op to launch ahead of schedule, the American commander decides to take advantage of the professor's military training (he was an infantryman) and have him come along. The thinking is that even if he's just an infantryman, he'll be able to handle himself on a battlefield.
  • Ziva David from NCIS was a Mossad kidon operative.
  • In How to Ruin series by Simone Elkeles, Amy spends a summer in Israel and meets a guy named Avi, who is in the military there. In the third book in the series, she follows him back to Israel and signs up for military training.
  • Mentioned briefly in Black Lagoon by Ibraha, who calls them "Those monsters from Jerusalem!". Unfortunately, they're never actually seen.
  • Like with most world militaries, the IDF makes an appearance in The Salvation War. However, they are not shown in the kindest of lights.

Alternative Title(s):

Israeli Defense Force, Israeli Defence Force, Ha Haganah, Israelis With Infrared Missiles