Netanyahu prepares to strengthen role of security cabinet
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Netanyahu prepares to strengthen role of security cabinet

Draft legislation would have the select group make war-related decisions without the need for full cabinet's knowledge or approval

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right), Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (center) and Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (left) during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in 2016, file photo (Amit Shabi/POOL/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right), Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (center) and Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (left) during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in 2016, file photo (Amit Shabi/POOL/Flash90)

The Justice Ministry is preparing a draft amendment to Israel’s Basic law that would allow the prime minister to declare war, or order a military operation that could lead to war, with the approval only of the 10-member security cabinet.

The legislation is being advanced by Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a Channel 2 report Sunday.

The bill would have the full cabinet authorize the security cabinet to make decisions about going to war or taking steps that could lead to war. And it would allow decisions to be made even if not all members of the security cabinet were available at the time.

The full cabinet would not need to be briefed on the decisions or the reasons for the decisions, according to the draft.

According to the report, the Justice Ministry believes the smaller decision-making body would limit the possibility of leaks.

Additionally, it would give greater authority to the security cabinet so that its members would take more responsibility for their decisions. This was a recommendation of the Amidror Report into the functioning of the security cabinet, reportedly added at the request of Netanyahu.

Last year, Netanyahu tasked a committee headed by former chief of the National Security Council, Major General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, with coming up with recommendations on ways to overhaul of the high-level security cabinet and improve intelligence-sharing among senior ministers. The move came amid heavy pressure by Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett who argued that the functioning of the security cabinet was deficient, and that these deficiencies were highlighted by the 2014 summer war with the Gaza Strip.

A State Comptroller report published this year found considerable fault in the way the security cabinet was managed during the 2014 conflict, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, near Gaza, in 2008 (photo credit: David Buimovitch-JINIPIX/Flash90)
Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, near Gaza, in 2008 (photo credit: David Buimovitch-JINIPIX/Flash90)

Channel 2 speculated that the background to the proposed legislation is an incident that took place seven years ago. Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak approached the then-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and the then-head of the Mossad Meir Dagan to prepare the defense establishment to take a certain military position. Ashkenazi and Dagan refused to do so, saying such a move was illegal without the approval of the full cabinet as it could lead to war.

After Ashkenazi and Dagan refused to cooperate, Netanyahu and Barak decided not to go ahead with the operation rather than risk presenting it to the cabinet.

There is speculation that the incident was related to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The amendment is expected to come before the Knesset in the coming session after the current summer recess.

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