Religious Authorities in the Military and Civilian Control: The Case of the Israeli Defense Forces

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This article takes a step toward filling the gap in the scholarly literature by examining the impact of religious intervention in the military on civil-military relations. Using the case of Israel, I argue that although the subordination of the Israeli military to elected civilians has remained intact, and the supreme command has been mostly secular, external religious authorities operate within the formal chain of command and in tandem with the formal authorities, managing the military affairs. This religious influence is apparent in three major domains: (1) the theological influence on military deployment, (2) the exclusion of women from equal participation in military service, and (3) the role expansion of the Military Rabbinate as a quasi-state agency and its reflection in the socialization of secular soldiers and the development of alternative military ethics. Consequently, extra-institutional control of the military is at work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-332
Number of pages28
JournalPolitics and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

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© 2016, © 2016 SAGE Publications.


  • civilian control
  • extra-institutional control
  • military ethics
  • military service
  • religionization
  • theology


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