The power to make war

The more domestic clamor is made, the more intelligence is given to the enemy.

IDF's Givati Brigade excercise 370 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
IDF's Givati Brigade excercise 370
(photo credit: 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 subcommittee.
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.”
According 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.”
SHE 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...”
Her 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” Israel.
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 debates.
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 congressional approval.
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 Ghadaffi.
“Currently a decision to go to war must only be approved by Netanyahu’s 15-member diplomatic-security cabinet...
Gal-On’s legislation 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 Gil Hoffman.
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 decision.
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.
Gal-On 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.