Analysis: Despite Israel's cabinet compromise, nothing will really change

Even after Netanyahu and Bennett's agreement on the new coalition, the National Security Council won't be taken into account; fateful decisions will largely be made on whims.

May 31, 2016 10:28
3 minute read.

Avigdor Lieberman is sworn in as Israel's new defence minister

Avigdor Lieberman is sworn in as Israel's new defence minister


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Corporal Avigdor Liberman who served one year in the Israeli Defense Forces was received today by a military honor guard before entering the office as the 18th Defense Minister of the State of Israel. The controversial right-wing politician with a short fuse, at least when he served as an opposition leader to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will now have to show his restraint and responsibility.

It is very probably that he will. The same concerns that arose in recent weeks were expressed in Israel and abroad when Liberman was appointed foreign minister in 2009. Liberman proved to be reasonable.

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His nomination is the result of a typical Israeli political compromise.

It was agreed by rival political factions not to appoint a military secretary to the Security Cabinet at this stage and allow the head of the National Security Council (NSC) to brief cabinet ministers ahead of their deliberations and decisions.

This was an obvious decision. This is exactly the role of the National Security Council. It was established for this purpose and its position was affirmed in a special law eight years ago.

The problem is that no one takes account of this body. The intelligence community has neither collaborated nor shared information with NSC.

The NSC was formed in order to improve the decision making process of the prime minister and the government, to prepare white papers, briefings, policy suggestions and more. Over the years, the council has written a slew of documents, but only a few of its ideas were discussed, let alone accepted.

Since the Yom Kippur War, one commission after the other (Agranat, Winograd) has issued reports on deficiencies and negligence in decision making, underscoring the need to improve the quality of discussions in the government and enable ministers to receive updates so they will know what they are voting for and why they are sending IDF soldiers to battles and dangerous operations.

However, time after time – note the Second Lebanon War, the three conflicts in Gaza – none of these recommendations were implemented.

The government and the cabinet decided to launch military operations or start strategic or political moves, without an organized and consecutive process that will take all possible ramifications into account. The decisions taken were mostly a result of intuition and often haphazard hastiness.

Having said that, the position of the NSC chairman remains unfilled, after the candidacy of Aviel Bar Yosef was thwarted as the result of a suspected conflict of interest and corruption. Until an inquiry into Bar Yosef ends, the National Security Council is administered by deputy NSC chairman, Yaakov Nagal.

According to an agreed upon compromise, Nagan will give briefing to the cabinet until a new NSC chairman is appointed. In addition, the prime minister has formed a committee headed by the former NSC chairman, Yaakov Amidror, that will review the subject and decide whether to appoint a special military secretary to the cabinet.

In any civilized country such an issue would not even be considered. Certainly government ministers in general and cabinet members in particular, who make decisions on war and peace and death, need to be informed, instructed and take control of the situation.

And therefore, they need expert consultants. However, in Israel almost everything is done in delay and distortion. The obvious is extraordinary and unusual. Everything is prevented by blowups. Everything is political and personal.

So, due to the compromise on his position, Avigdor Liberman was sworn in as defense minister and the coalition was expanded. Although there was doubt regarding the compromise, there were no drop-outs from the government over the demands.

The haggling over the coalition between Netanyahu and Bennett was an addicting political game. It was a game of aggression, surrender and ego without enough debate of substance.

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