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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who controls the IDF?

In a post which is behind the JPost paywall, but which I received by email in full, Evelyn Gordon wonders whether the government controls the IDF anymore.
Ironically, the one officer who evidently did take the Sinai threat seriously was the man the government wanted as chief of staff: Yoav Galant. According to the Haaretz report, the last significant boost in the IDF’s deployment along the southern border occurred four years ago, when Galant, as GOC Southern Command, allocated more resources to this border from within his own command.

There’s obviously no guarantee that Galant would have beefed up the border further had his appointment gone through. Nor would an increased troop presence necessarily have prevented the negative outcome of the Eilat attacks: the loss of both Israeli and Egyptian lives and the consequent diplomatic crisis with Egypt. But war with Egypt would clearly be disastrous, and it ought to be equally clear, as I wrote both in May and last week, that enough such border incidents could eventually spark one. Hence trying to prevent such incidents should be top priority.

And as it turns out, the government actually did try: It decided over a year ago to boost deployment along the southern border, and it chose a new chief of staff who took the Sinai problem seriously.

But a coterie of unelected officials thwarted its efforts. Two successive chiefs of staff reportedly ignored its deployment order, while the state comptroller, attorney general and Supreme Court joined forces to nix its preferred choice to succeed Ashkenazi – and did so, incidentally, over alleged offenses far less serious than rank insubordination. That left the government scrambling for a last-minute replacement whom the legal mandarins would deem acceptable. And on this score, Gantz qualified.

The outcome obviously raises serious questions about Israel’s security. But it raises even more serious questions about Israel’s democracy. No country can call itself a democracy if its military is not subordinate to the elected civilian government. But in Israel, it turns out, the elected government has no control over the army: It can neither force a recalcitrant chief of staff to do its bidding nor replace him with a successor of its own choosing.

So is Israel in fact still a democracy? Or is it governed by an unelected junta of legal and military officials hiding behind the façade of democratic government? It’s hard to say precisely where the tipping point lies, but the trend is clear: For far too long, the unelected officials have been expanding their power at the expense of the elected ones. And unless the elected government starts fighting back, Israel can kiss its democracy good-bye.
Actually, it would probably be fairer to say that the Supreme Court controls the IDF given the court's continuing insistence on interfering with the IDF's operational decisions (like the 'security fence' route).

What could go wrong?

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At 6:12 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Knesset will need to pass a Basic Law restoring the principle of parliamentary supremacy and requiring Israel's courts to defer to the executive branch on "political questions." The voters should know who is answerable to them and Israel's elected officials should be able to have their appointees answer to them.

That's the way it should work in a democracy.


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