The existence of armed forces commanded by the
elected government of a nation is a hallmark of
democratic rule. Before the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, there were a number of armed Jewish defense
organizations that operated for its protection. In addition to the Haganah and Palmach, which
answered to the elected leadership of the Jewish national
institutions, other armed defense group including the Lehi (Lohamei Herut Israel or 'Fighters for the Freedom of Israel') and
the IZL (Irgun Zevai
Le'ummi or 'National Military Organization') operated independently.
It was only natural that when Israel's independence
was declared, the new legal government would decide to establish a
single, unified armed force loyal to the Government of the State of
Israel: The Israel
On May 28, 1948, the Provisional Government of the
State of Israel issued Defence Army of Israel Ordinance No. 4. This
ordinance, signed by Prime Minister David
Ben-Gurion, established the Israel Defense Forces, which would be
comprised of "land forces, a navy and an air force". The
ordinance was published in the Official Gazette No.3 of May 31, 1948 (below in English and Hebrew).
In a state of emergency, conscription would be
instituted and the age for conscripts would be set by the Provisional
Government. The existence or establishment of any armed force other
than the Israel
Defense Forces was prohibited. Additionally, every individual
serving in the IDF would be required to swear allegiance to the State
of Israel, to its laws, and its legal bodies.
The general officers of the nascent Israel Defense
Forces were sworn-in in a ceremony conducted on June 27, 1948.
The process of establishing a unified Israel
Defense Forces was protracted. It began in the midst of the fighting
against invading Arab armies. The Lehi resistance organization
dissolved itself immediately upon the creation of the State of Israel
and its members joined the IDF on an individual basis. However, in
the Jerusalem area, the
Lehi continued to function as an armed fighting force until 17
September 1948, when the organization in that sector was dissolved
according to a government order issued after the assassination
of the UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte.
Individual battalions of the IZL joined the IDF
with the exception of those fighting in Jerusalem. However, following
the Altalena incident,
these battalions were disbanded on September 20, 1948, and their
soldiers joined the IDF on an individual basis as did all other
citizens of the State of Israel.
The companies and battalions of the Palmach joined
the IDF in a process which extended until the Chief of Staff ordered
the dissolution of the Palmach on 29 October 1948, which became
effective on 7th of November.
The creation of a unified IDF lasted almost 6 and
a half months, from May 28 until November 7, 1948.