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Israel Defense Forces: National Defense College

by Pini Yehezkeli

Israel's National Defense College (INDC) was established by Israel Defense Forces Chief-of-Staff Haim Laskov, who played a central role in establishing the IDF's educational training system.

Laskov believed that the senior leadership of the IDF lacked a training course to prepare it for duties at the political-strategic level so he decided to establish an educational institution in a military setting, in which representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Defense would participate along with high-ranking officers.  The institution would offer its students a national perspective and approach to the subject of national security.

The  curriculum was meant to provide an answer to the need for the development of a common military language. It  included the basic knowledge required in order to understand the issues of national security of the State of Israel and of preparing seminar papers in mixed teams on subjects which have comprehensive security implications that require the coordination and cooperation of several governmental bodies. Such topics included economics, the governing of the State of Israel, the Middle East, Israel and Judaism, Israel and the world, science and the state, international relations and the foundations of the military.

On July 22nd, 1962, the government authorized the establishment of the national defense college with the goal of consolidating a comprehensive national defense doctrine and creation of a common language on topics of national security amongst all those who carry the burden of the national security in the state.

The curriculum, which was consolidated up until the opening of the college in October 1963, reflected the concept of endowing its students with the whole of the ideological and principled doctrines in the fields of the history, policy, society, economics, foreign relations, science, and the security of the State of Israel.

Alongside the curriculum, the founding team also determined the requirements for students' profiles: they will be people with high standards and with the potential for promotion who will represent various fields of the IDF and in the governmental and civil sectors. The idea was that the students would contribute from their own knowledge and experience and would enable the sharing of information and knowledge. The class would include about 25 people, a third of them coming from the IDF at the ranks of Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels.  The opening date was set for October 1963.

The weakness of the college was that it failed to provide a focused answer to the needs that stood at the essence of its establishment – to be a training environment for the senior leadership or a source for the development of the security-military thought.  When Chief-of-Staff Yitzhak Rabin was asked by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to refer to the college with regard to whether or not it can be seen as some sort of a component in the security fortitude of Israel, he was forced to answer negatively: "It is not something that I can say that contributes any  strengths: these  are things   that are in the field of general knowledge."

Four years later, Prime Minister Eshkol brought about the closure of the college. On June 27th, 1966, the Committee of Ministers resolved to empower the Defense Minister to appoint a committee in order to examine the efficiency of the existence of the college in light of "the government's policy of budget reductions and considering the state's economic status."

About a year after the Yom Kippur War, the head of the Instruction Branch (IB) at the time, Major General Menachem Marom, approached the head of the Operations Branch with a suggestion to act to reestablish the National Defense College. Marom wrote that as there was no institution in the IDF for preparing officers above the level of Command and Staff, senior officers act on the strategic level without having been trained to do so and "without any institutional direction whatsoever."  Maronsuggested that the goal of the college should be to teach senior officers and people who play central roles in the government ministries issues of national security as well as to become  an institution which guides and gathers research papers  on the strategic issues of the State of Israel.

On May 23rd, 1976, a proposal was placed on the government's table of a decision to reestablish the college, and in December 1976, the founding terms, which had been processed by the college's reestablishment team, were turned in.  At the opening ceremony of the college, the Chief of General Staff challenged the college: to become the arena  in which the existential questions of the State of Israel, would be discussed.

In September 1st, 1991, the INDC came under the command of the Headquarters of the Military Colleges.

In 2006, the gates of the INDC were also opened to students from foreign militaries, a decision that was initiated by the commander of the colleges at the time, Major General Eyal Ben-Reuven.

Sources: National Defense College Alumni Association