Shelah is raising his proposal again, after it already failed to pass in preliminary reading at the Knesset three months ago, following the release of the State Comptroller's report on Operation Protective Edge, which pointed to serious failings in the Security Cabinet's work during the war.
The comptroller pointed to an unprepared and ill-informed cabinet that lacked vital background information regarding the tunnel threat from Gaza, thus compromising its decisions.
“There is no external consulting assistance that would make it easier for (ministers) to prepare and consider alternatives (to the options being proposed). The background information they receive ahead of the cabinet discussions is inadequate, and they have no say on what kind of information they receive,” Shelah wrote in his explanation of the proposed legislation.
“This also applies even when there is a matter they consider critical, but the prime minister chooses not to raise the matter for discussion.”
In order to ensure cabinet members can make comprehensive decisions and provide them with the knowledge they need to do their job, the proposal demands that each member dedicate half a day each week to cabinet-related work, during which they will go over intelligence material and receive briefings from the relevant bodies.
In addition, a military secretary will be appointed for every cabinet member and will be expected to keep them up to date on security matters.
The proposed bill also seeks to enshrine in law and clarify the authority of the cabinet to ensure that all members are aware of what their role entails, what their responsibilities are, as well as their restrictions.
The National Security Council would be entrusted with training and preparing the cabinet members.
While Shelah is currently the man spearheading the bill, Education Minister and cabinet member Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) had already demanded most of the points appearing in the legislation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu half a year ago, conditioning his support for the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman to defense minister on the prime minister introducing these changes.
Along with Shelah, MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) and Yaakov Peri co-sponsored the bill, but last time it was raised to a vote, Smotrich, Bennett and their party had to vote with the coalition against the legislation.
Since the legislation was rejected in preliminary reading, Shelah has to wait for six months before he could raise it to a vote again. However, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has the authority to shorten the waiting period when there is urgent need to pass a bill.
Shelah sent a letter to Edelstein on Wednesday, listing the reasons that, in his opinion, justify bringing the legislation to a vote again early.
Cabinet convened only for major decisions
In tandem with Shelah's efforts, Housing Minister Yoav Galant plans to propose legislation in the coming days that would have the Security Cabinet convened only to vote on fundamental decisions, rather than deal with the day-to-day governing of the state.
The cabinet would be updated on a regular basis on the state of the IDF, acquisition of equipment, military operations and conscription. During a state of emergency, the bill would require the cabinet to be the chief forum for strategic decision-making, such as whether to launch a military campaign, in what circumstances and whether such action is necessary.
The cabinet would also be required to follow developments in the theaters of war, would decide upon whether to escalate military operations and whether objectives have been achieved.
Galant has also recommended establishing a limited cabinet forum that would include the prime minister, the defense minister, the foreign minister and up to two others who possess expert knowledge on matters pertaining to security. Neither, however, would be required to be from the cabinet and could include, for example, a former IDF chief of staff.
“I am trying to attain some efficiency that will enable the military apparatus to be managed and placing boundaries so that the system can’t just do what it wants,” Galant said.
In addition to a number of prominent politicians and military brass that have thrown their lot in behind the proposal, families of fallen soldiers from Protective Edge have also expressed their support.
“It is obvious that if such a bill had been passed a few years before Protective Edge, the cabinet would have looked different,” said Shmuel Lavi, father of Liad Lavi who was killed in Gaza in 2014.
“It is safe to presume that lives could have been saved. That still doesn’t mean that my son or other sons would not have been killed, but at least we would have known that the state was being managed responsibly. It is right that from now on when parents send their children to the army, which sends them to war, they will be sure that the discussions and the decision-making are done as they should be.”