Who Will Make the Decision?


By: Gilead Sher and Gal Perl Finkel


The Knesset has recently amended the “Basic Law: The Government,” with respect to "authority to declare war or conduct a significant military operation." Under the previous legislation, this authority was given to the government, but the new law grants the authority to the Ministerial Committee for National Security (the Security Cabinet). However, the final version of the new law goes even further, and concludes: "Under extreme circumstances and for reasons that will be noted…the prime minister and the minister of defense are authorized to make the decision in a more restricted legal quorum." Such a law has almost no equivalent in Western democracies. It lacks the checks and balances essential to a democratic regime and is bound to undermine the principle that war is an act requiring maximum domestic and international legitimacy. Yet in view of the new legislation, the Security Cabinet's work should be improved so that it will be fully familiar with the strategic matters on the agenda. In addition, both for the sake of checks and balances and the prevention of an overconcentration of authority in the hands of individuals and so that more than two elected representatives of the people bear responsibility for cardinal policy measure such as war and peace, at least the entire Security Cabinet should participate in the decision. The tactical decisions can and should be made in restricted forums, but it is best for such a momentous decision as a declaration of war to be taken in a broad forum that bears the burden of the responsibility.


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