The power to make war
The more domestic clamor is made, the more intelligence is given to the enemy.
IDF's Givati Brigade excercise Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office
According to Meretz Chairman MK Zehava Gal-On, the breaks on Israel’s war
machine require a strong dose of oil. I disagree. On Sunday, August 5, she
offered an idea to the Knesset that would limit the power of the prime minister
and defense minister in their facility to declare war without the consent of any
Gal-On insists that the prime minister has too much
authority to act with haste and autonomy in the act of declaring war without the
consent of other Knesset members who do not oversee a ministry in the current
leadership, such as Labor Chairwoman Shelley Yachimovich or Gal-On of Meretz.
These party leaders do not affect enough of Israel’s war policy, and according
to Meretz, as a result: “the war-machine is moving too fast.”
to right-wingers, in the wake of the aging “soft-war” and nuclear crisis with
Iran, Israel cannot move fast enough. Gal-On is drawing an incongruous illusion
and calling to the Knesset floor a misnomer. This was noticed in her speech to
the Knesset on Sunday, that drew allusions to other democracies. She was quoted
as saying: “The law must require Knesset oversight over the government on
decisions to go to war... Israel is the only country in the world that has no
oversight over its military operations. The fate of the State of Israel is in
the hands of people guided by considerations of political survival.”
IS right to offer the Knesset any ideas to increase democracy. However, in May,
Gal-On spoke before the press in Jerusalem, suspicious that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak could launch a strike on Iran
while America is distracted with election campaigning. She said, “The idea of
taking advantage of the fact that the parents are away from home is childish
because the parents will return and the punishment will be severe...”
idea for reform must be ignored because she misreads the Americans and
underestimates the complexity of the situation. Sometimes, a military maneuver
that has not been overly-discussed amongst parties – such as Meretz, which is
defined by its “peacenik” ethos (as well as the Avoda party for that matter) –
is better left that way, especially when it comes to a situation such as Iran’s
military capabilities and enrichment of uranium that runs parallel to pugnacious
rhetoric and threats, despite sanctioning.
In our case we will examine
laws of declaring war in the United States. We will find that “Israel” – as
Gal-On states – is not “the only country in the world that has no oversight over
its military operations.” In that country, it was not until 1973 (towards the
conclusion of America’s unsuccessful war bid in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) when
Congress passed the War Powers Resolution.
This is a federal law set in
place to check the president’s autonomy in his ability to declare war, as
commander and chief, without consulting Congress.
This law was passed
with a joint resolution stating that the president must consult Congress except
in the event of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States,
its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” The pro-Iran war camp in
Israel might have said that any attack fired into the homeland by Hezbollah or
Hamas (bankrolled by Iran) is “a national emergency created by attack upon”
GRANTED, TO understand the parallel I am drawing, we must first
admit the extreme differences between the Congress and American military and the
Knesset and IDF. Now, there are various exceptions, legal and semantic
The cabinet in America is made of officials appointed by the
president and belonging to his or her political party.
In its history,
the United States declared war against another country five times, each upon the
request of the president, after the commencement of military hostilities. It was
in the Federal Convention of 1787 when James Madison insisted that the phrase
“make war” be changed to “declare war.” This would give the White House the
power to react to a sudden attack, but not to launch a battle march sans
In response to this, the War Powers Resolution
says that the president must notify Congress within 48 hours of exercising armed
forces to military action and forbids armed forces from staying offshore in a
war zone for more than 60 days. The resolution was passed by twothirds of
Congress, thus overriding a presidential veto.
The War Powers Resolution
was violated by president Ronald Reagan in 1981 by sending military to El
Salvador, by president Bill Clinton in 1999, during the NATO bombing of Kosovo,
and by incumbent President Barack Obama in 2011, when (by exercising NATO, which
is bankrolled mainly by the United States) he did not seek congressional
approval for the attack on Libya that resulted in the ousting of
“Currently a decision to go to war must only be approved by
Netanyahu’s 15-member diplomatic-security cabinet...
would require a prime minister to also obtain approval from the Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Defense Committee’s Subcommittee for Intelligence and Secret
Services, which already oversees the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the
Mossad and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission,” reported The Jerusalem Post’s
GAL-ON’S IMPETUS for such a law has to do with the Iranian
threat, where Israel has had ample time and intelligence to make a premeditated
Furthermore, former vice prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, claims
that Netanyahu has been considering appointing Tzachi Hanegbi as a minister “to
tip the scales in the inner-security cabinet in favor of a strike on Iran...,”
as was reported in the Post.
According to the new proposition’s
nay-sayers, new measures to further slow the war-declaration process by engaging
Knesset subcommittees only makes things more dangerous for Israel.
was quoted as saying: “My proposal would defend Israel from a hasty decision by
the government to go to war... A representative of the opposition in the Knesset
should be involved in the decision-making.”
Her reckoning is feasible,
but we cannot ignore the danger of a direct Iranian threat on Israel within the
capacity of chemical warfare. In such an event, the IDF would have to respond
immediately and notify its allied forces in the Straits of Hormuz and the region
neighboring Iran. Furthermore, the more domestic clamor is made, the more
intelligence is given to the enemy.
The writer is a post-graduate student
at Bar-Ilan University and a freelance writer.