The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force

The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force

The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force

The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force


The Israeli Defense Force has long been one of the world's preeminent fighting forces, time and again capturing headlines by fighting -- often against great odds -- its Arab neighbors, and winning. How did the IDF become so formidable? Is it -- was it ever -- everything it's cracked up to be?

The Sword and the Olive traces the history of the IDF from its beginnings in Palestine to today, detailing its formidable accomplishments and demonstrating how its success has proved to be a double-edged sword for Israel. Combining razor-sharp analysis with dramatic narrative, vivid portraits of generals and infantrymen with illuminating discussions of battle tactics and covert actions, The Sword and the Olive goes beyond chronology to wrestle with the political and ethical struggles that have shaped the IDF and the country it serves. Often revisionist in attitude, and surprising in many of its conclusions, this book casts new tight on the struggle for peace in the Middle East.


Ever since it officially emerged out of the prestate Hagana during Israel's War of Independence in 1947-1949, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has become one of the world's leading armed forces. Time and again it has captured global headlines by fighting, and usually winning, wars against Israel's Arab neighbors. Time and again it has come up with innovative concepts, beginning with the conscription of women (the only time in history this has been done) and more recently with the development of new weapons systems such as active tank armor and remotely piloted vehicles (RIPVs), unveiled for the first time during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Even as these lines are written, and regardless of the ongoing peace process, the idf remains the ultimate guarantor of the country's existence and a critical component in the balance of power in one of the world's strategically most important regions.

This book will trace the history of the idf from its origins -- the organizations known as Bar Giora and Ha-shomer, which date to the time when Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire -- to the present day. It lies in the nature of things that the greatest attention will be devoted to military questions, that is, war and preparations for war; yet as far as space permits, political, economic, social, and cultural issues must also be considered. the longtime forces that shaped the idf will be examined, but so will the outstanding and often highly colorful leaders who were responsible for making the day-to-day decisions. Analysis will combine with narrative, the general with the specific. Only in this way, and by taking as comprehensive a point of view as possible, can one hope to do justice to the subject as a whole.

With these objectives in mind, the volume falls into three main parts. Part I will take us from the beginnings past World War I, past the time when Hagana was founded during the period of British rule as a self- defense organization, past the establishment in 1941 of palmach as the first full-time fighting force, past the start of the underground struggle against the British in 1944-1947, and all the way through Israel's War of Independence, which lasted from November 1947 to January 1949. Part ii

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