The IDF is collaborating with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) to help clean up the environment.

The project, called Nature Defense Forces, will use private funds to clean up areas in and around army bases throughout Israel.

Israel’s army is sometimes criticized by environmental groups, like the SPNI, for inadequate sewage disposal and the destructive nature of training exercises. The Environmental Protection Ministry has also pointed fingers at the IDF, naming the army one of Israel’s greatest polluters and calling for the army to be held accountable for the contamination caused when they abandon sites.

The project, made possible by a generous donation from the Rachel and Moshe Yanai to the Hoopoe Foundation, is a chance for the IDF to clean-up both the environment and its public image when it comes to green concerns.

Already, many of the commanders have shown enthusiasm for the initiative, which will officially launch in April.

“This projects involves personal commitment by commanders, and public exposure is expected to arouse the interest of other commanders as well.” SNPI’s Yossi Leshem said. “It’s true that the army is legally committed to protecting environment, in coordination with the INPA [Israel Nature and Park Authority], but we know that without the commitment of commanding officers nothing happens in practice.”

The initial projects were selected from over two dozen submissions from throughout Israel and designed by the units themselves. While army personnel will man the projects, private funding will be used to foot the bill of the clean-up.

SPNI stressed however, that while it is collaborating with the IDF, it will not back down from criticizing its program partners if the army fails to respect the Israeli eco-system.

“We are always supported by state funds and that has never stopped our criticism,” SNPI’s Yaakov Shaharabani said, adding that he hopes the new collaboration will help make the IDF more environmentally aware, educating the soldiers and promoting change from within.