'IDF's policymaking role exaggerated'

Academic experts say gov't, diplomatic bodies should determine foreign policy.

halutz fists 298 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
halutz fists 298 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Does the IDF have too much influence over matters of state and government policy? According to an expert participating in a conference, entitled "A Military with a State?", at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem on Monday, the unusually high status the army maintains in society grants it an undemocratic and exaggerated level of influence over negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and overall government policy. "The entire system operates in an undemocratic fashion," said Prof. Gabriel Sheffer, one of the organizers of the two-day conference. The IDF's function as the official state appraiser of diplomatic situations and its deep involvement in peace negotiations, he said, has restricted civilian and political bodies, such as the Knesset and Foreign Ministry, from taking over these functions. Immediately following the state's establishment, Sheffer said, the IDF was granted a key role in all state functions due to the dire security situation. In 1967, he said, the situation got worse following the Six Day War, whose 39th anniversary the conference marked. Historians from England, the US and France participated. Generals, Sheffer said, continued to contribute to the IDF's domination over Israeli society even after they completed their military service, since they traditionally took up key posts in the civilian and political echelon while continuing to apply a military way of thinking. In comparison to other Western and developed countries, he said, the IDF had an "irregular status and influence" over the diplomatic and political echelons. The National Security Council, Knesset and Foreign Ministry, Sheffer said, were the types of government bodies that were more suited to deal with peace talks and formulating government policy. "The situation today is that the Knesset has barely any influence over state policy," he said.