Israel just made these huge changes to its most elite special ops units

The Israeli Defense Force has been known as one of the world’s best militaries. This is particularly true of its commando units.

In a new move the government hopes will professionalize the force, those elite special operations units will likely become even more effective.

According to a report by, usually Israeli conscripts serve three years – pilots have a nine-year service term – and most commandos are extended one year. That will now change, with troops going into commando units now being obligated to serve eight years.

A Sayeret Matkal commando. (Wikimedia Commons)

The units affected by this move are the Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13 naval commandos, Shaldag heli-borne commandos, and 669 search-and-rescue unit. The extended term of service, though, will also come with a pay increase of 17.6 percent and an Israeli version of the GI Bill.

The commando units were hard hit by the old policy, since it took anywhere from 18 months to two years to fully train members of these elite units, which are often referred to as “Tier One” units.

This means that the Israeli commando units will operate closer to the model used by elite American and British units like the Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and Special Air Service. In those units, operators are usually career personnel. Both the United States and United Kingdom also have all-volunteer military forces.

The IDF’s paratroopers brigade operate within the Gaza Strip to find and disable Hamas’ network terror tunnels and eliminate their threat to Israeli civilians. (Photo from Israeli Defense Forces Flickr)

Sayeret Matkal is best known for being the unit that carried out the 1976 rescue operation at Entebbe. That operation, commanded by Yonatan Netanyahu (whose younger brother, Benjamin, became prime minister of Israel), rescued 102 out of 106 hostages for the loss of one commando (Yonatan).

Shayetet 13, a unit similar to Navy SEALs, was credited with sinking five Egyptian ships during the Yom Kippur War. Shaldog was credited with taking part in a 2007 air raid on a Syrian nuclear reactor. Unit 669 is similar to the Air Force pararescue units, and in 2003 were noted for rescuing ten Turkish sailors during a storm in the Mediterranean Sea.

These units, already among the best in the world, will now be much better. Israel’s friends will likely rest easier, while Israel’s enemies will probably lose sleep.