Gal-On: Gov’t should need MKs’ approval for war

Meretz leader brings up bill proposal that would add "external examination before hasty decisions are made" on going to war.

Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On 370 (photo credit: ben hartman)
Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On 370
(photo credit: ben hartman)
Israel should have a law requiring prime ministers to consult with the Knesset before military operations, Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said Saturday night after US President Barack Obama said he would consult with Congress before engaging in military action against Syria.
Gal-On called this “very significant.” She brought up a bill she proposed last year that would require the government to go to a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee for approval before going to war.
Under the current law, the Meretz leader pointed out, “the government only reports to the Knesset after the fact,” adding that her bill would add an external examination before hasty decisions are made, without harming secrecy when needed.
Though Gal-On proposed the legislation over a year ago, it has yet to be brought to a ministerial or legislative vote.
“Think about the way military decisions beyond our borders are decided upon in Israel: The authority is completely in the hands of the government, which delegates it to the security cabinet, which passes it on to a smaller group of ministers and then the ‘kitchen table’ and at the end of the day, two or three people decide alone, in the dead of night, the fateful decision to attack a foreign country, which could lead to a total war, without any additional factor raising doubts,” Gal-On wrote on Facebook.
The Meretz leader pointed to the Second Lebanon War as an example of a decision made by a very small group of people without hearing any opposition voices.
While Gal-On said she doesn’t think every military action needs the Knesset’s approval, because it would be “unreasonable for obvious reasons,” the legislature should be able to supervise strategic decisions by the executive.
Gal-On’s bill is inspired in part by US law. Under the US Constitution, Congress has the power to declare war and control war funding, while the president is commander-inchief of the military and leads the armed forces. He also has the power to veto a congressional declaration of war, like any other act of Congress.
The US War Powers Resolution of 1973 is a federal law stating that the president may only send forces to an armed conflict abroad following a declaration of war by Congress, “statutory authorization” or “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States.”