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Photo: Flash 90
Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo: Flash 90
Alex Fishman
Israel's civilian military dictatorship
Opinion: Thanks to a prolonged election season, the cabinet is a rubber stamp and the Knesset is dissolved, leaving just Netanyahu – who is both prime minister and defense minister – making decisions regarding army operations

Israel and Syria are in direct conflict over the interpretation of the return to ceasefire agreements of 1974. The Syrian army deployed its forward divisions on the Golan Heights, exactly where they were on the eve of the civil war in 2011.

 

 

As far as the Syrians are concerned, the days of violating their sovereignty, especially from the air, are over. Israel, for its part, is not willing to give up the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as long as it has no confidence that other forces are not hiding behind the Syrian deployment.

 

Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi (Photo: Aviahu Shapira)
Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi (Photo: Aviahu Shapira)

 

Against the backdrop of these tensions, Israeli aircraft came under fire last week, which resulted in the destruction of a Syrian anti-aircraft cannon, which resulted in rocket fire at the Hermon.

 

After weeks in which the cabinet has been absent from the decision-making process, Netanyahu is scheduled to convene his ministers on Tuesday.

 

Apparently this meeting will not include real consultations. The ministers will hear a report or perhaps a request to approve some project or another, nod their heads and accept the prime minister's recommendations.

 

But it does not end in the north. Imagine the nightmares people had about summer 2019 being realized.

 

 

 Rocket fire at Israel from Gaza during the the escalation in violence in May 2019 (Photo: Reuters)
Rocket fire at Israel from Gaza during the the escalation in violence in May 2019 (Photo: Reuters)

 

The "arrangement" in the Gaza Strip is disintegrating and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is carrying out the threat he addressed to Israel in a speech given on the occasion of Jerusalem Day, in which he expressed absolute loyalty to Iran.

 

Imagine hundreds of projectiles landing in Israel, some in the central region, rockets carrying massive warheads striking the Gaza border communities and bombarding reinforced buildings. In response, the Air Force begins to implement its grand war plan, and in cooperation with fire from sea and artillery from land - entire neighborhoods in Gaza are being destroyed.

 

The army is preparing for a ground operation, for which the public is clamoring. It is clear to the political and military echelons that once the tanks enter Gaza, the regional strategic picture may well change altogether.

 

This is no longer a raid, but a war designed to alter the facts on the ground. In such a situation, who gives the green light to the army? Who defines the objectives and decides what goals must be reached? According to the law, it's the cabinet.

 

The Knesset votes to dissolve and hold new elections, May 29, 2019 (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)
The Knesset votes to dissolve and hold new elections, May 29, 2019 (Photo: Yoav Dudkevitch)

 

But no one envisioned a situation in which the cabinet would serve as a transitional cabinet for almost a year. Indeed, the current cabinet does not really act as an implement of checks and balances alongside the prime minister and the defense minister.

 

Furthermore, electoral-populist considerations on the eve of elections inevitably form a major role in the decision-making processes. In short, it's not a cabinet - it's a rubber stamp.

 

Ergo, the only ones left who can give the green light to the army are the prime minister and the defense minister, and in this instance, they are one and the same person.

 

Ostensibly, there is also parliament and its subcommittees, but since the 21st Knesset was dissolved, no new committees have been created, and some members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee failed to win reelection in April.

 

And as far as the opposition goes, in times of a security crisis, it is in fact merely a theoretical body. The three former army heads leading Blue and White will honor any operational requests made by current Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

 

Blue and White's generals: Moshe Ya'alon, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi (Photo: Yuval Chen)
Blue and White's generals: Moshe Ya'alon, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi (Photo: Yuval Chen)

 

The situation may become even more complicated if the prime minister and defense minister are in disagreement with the chief of staff about the scope and objectives of the operation.

 

And who will – as Israel is under fire - be able to make decisions on changes in fighting, the cessation of hostilities, the opening of negotiations with the enemy? There is no cabinet, no Knesset committees, no defense minister, no opposition. All we will have is Netanyahu, with his experiences, his weaknesses, his whims and fears.

 

This is essentially a coerced dictatorship. Netanyahu may not have intended to bring us to such a point, but his insistence on not allowing anyone else to form a government creates a dangerous situation. It is a situation in which all decision-making processes and parliamentary oversight of the defense establishment have slowed to a standstill.

 

This is true not only in the extreme case of war. The absence of a functioning Knesset has paralyzed the plan for military build-up since December 2018, when parliament dissolved ahead of the April elections, and will do so until the end of 2019, when the next government is formed after the September elections. Until then, all decisions regarding this military build-up are once again in Netanyahu's hands. And this story involves billions of dollars.

 

In practice, a prime minister who is also the defense minister can decide alone on relatively small sums of hundreds of millions, which do not require approval from a ministerial committee. But who would oversee expenditure of the kind required by the IDF?

 

We all saw happened with the prime minister's inner circle and the submarine deal, which Netanyahu was also supposed to oversee.

 


פרסום ראשון: 06.03.19, 23:12
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