'PM failed to enforce National Security law'

NSC meant to advise PM, ministerial committees on national security, but ‘significant gaps’ remain, says Lindenstrauss.

Micha Lindenstrauss 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Micha Lindenstrauss 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
In a special report released on Wednesday, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss criticized a litany of failures in the implementation of the 2008 National Security Council Law, and noted that as a result, the NSC had not played the central role it should have in the Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla decision-making process.
The report blamed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for failing to fully implement the law after the Knesset passed it almost four years ago. Established by government decree in 1999, the NSC was intended to act as a staff forum for the prime minister and his government for foreign and national security matters.
The NSC Law set out the NSC’s functions, including to act as a central advisory body to the prime minister and his ministerial committees on national security issues.
In his report, Lindenstrauss slammed the fact that since the NSC Law was passed, there remain “significant gaps” between the law’s provisions and purpose, and the way it has been implemented in practice.
Lindenstrauss criticized the fact that the NSC did not play a central role in the flotilla decision-making process, saying that Netanyahu had not instructed the NSC to carry out staff work on the matter, which violated the NSC Law.
The NSC itself conducted a meeting on how to deal with the arriving flotilla only on May 12, 2010 (the flotilla arrived on May 31), and even then did not integrate dealing with the flotilla into its staff work, Lindenstrauss noted, adding that the IDF and Defense Ministry did not cooperate when the NSC requested them to do so.
The state comptroller’s audit revealed that the NSC was not fulfilling the role originally intended for it, and that the council, which Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror heads, still does not act as a central headquarters for foreign and security affairs, that should provide added value for decision-makers on vital security issues.
Lindenstrauss said that since 2008, significant progress has been made in increasing the NSC’s involvement in prime ministerial and governmental decision-making on security matters.
However, the audit revealed that although the NSC Law stipulated that the body should conduct most discussions on security and foreign policy, in practice most of these discussions were still split between a number of other defense and security bodies, which did not always cooperate with the NSC.
The state comptroller added that the NSC Law should significantly change the way preparatory staff work is conducted during the prime ministerial decision-making process on foreign and security matters. The NSC, Lindenstrauss said, should act as a professional, balanced and objective body that coordinates the government’s work in these areas, and which can offer both a comprehensive view and also a “second opinion” to senior decision-makers. The NSC should also provide improved knowledge management for the decision-making process, the report said.
However, the report found that because the law had been only partially implemented, “the overall view of foreign and security issues, interoperability between various defense entities, and organizational memory on these matters may be adversely affected.”
Further, the audit revealed that the prime minister had stipulated that some security information would not be transferred to the head of the NSC, which Lindenstrauss said was contrary to the NSC Law.
Lindenstrauss also criticized the fact that the NSC was examining so-called “security initiatives” – plans to develop or purchase new weapons systems, for example – only at a very late stage in those plans’ development and immediately prior to their being presented for cabinet approval. This, he said, limited the NSC’s ability to influence the development of these initiatives.
The NSC also did not examine all security initiatives developed by other security bodies, including the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Lindenstrauss said, noting that these bodies were in principle opposed to having the NSC examine their projects.
Lindenstrauss recommended formulating an urgent plan to implement the NSC Law correctly and establish the NSC as a headquarters from which to coordinate the government’s work on security and foreign affairs.
The state comptroller noted that it was the prime minister’s responsibility to ensure that the act was implemented properly and to close the gap between the law’s provisions and the current situation.