Cabinet could nix new law that allows PM to declare war without cabinet – report
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Cabinet could nix new law that allows PM to declare war without cabinet – report

Amid concerns it may be struck down, government to reconsider legislation giving premier power to order mass military operation in consultation solely with defense minister

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the Knesset on October 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, at the Knesset on October 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Following criticism and concerns it may be struck down by the High Court, the government is reportedly to reconsider the far-reaching approval it granted to the prime minister and defense minister to declare war without government approval.

The cabinet decided to reevaluate the legislation less than a week after the Knesset approved the law, Hadashot TV news reported on Sunday.

In a surprising and potentially far-reaching victory for Benjamin Netanyahu, the Knesset last Monday evening gave the prime minister the authority to declare war or order a major military operation upon consulting only the defense minister, and not via a full cabinet vote, as the law had previously required.

The cabinet reportedly accepted Sunday that the version passed last week was too extreme and far-reaching, and is now looking to tone down the language of the bill.

During the weekly cabinet meeting, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said he wanted to revisit the legislation, claiming the majority of ministers and even the premier himself wanted it changed, the report said.

There is concern that the bill gives too much power to the prime minister and defense minister, and there is also a fear that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit could be forced to recommend it be struck down, due to constitutional overreach.

Sixty-two Knesset members voted the dramatic proposal into law, beating out the 41 opposition MKs who opposed it on the grounds that the language of the law effectively gives free reign to the prime minister by removing all oversight.

According to the new law, in “extreme circumstances,” military operations can be authorized by the prime minister and defense minister alone and will not require a vote by cabinet ministers.

The law does not specify exactly what those circumstances may be, or who will determine them, saying only that the case will apply “if the issue is necessary due to urgency.”

IDF soldiers in Hebron on June 17, 2014. (AFP Photo/Hazem Bader/File)

The proposal — advanced by Netanyahu since last year — had been rejected earlier in the day by members of two key Knesset committees: Law and Justice, and Foreign Affairs and Defense. It was resubmitted, however, by Likud member and Foreign Affairs and Defense committee chairman Avi Dichter during the second and third readings of a broader amendment, and was voted into law as part of that wider legislation.

That wider amendment allows the government to delegate the authority to declare war under normal circumstances, or mobilizing for a major military operation, to a forum made up of “at least half” of all cabinet ministers.

Sue Surkes and Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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