web analytics
October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Understanding Israel’s National-Security Policy

Needed changes in Israel's decision making process have simply not kept up with the growing complexities and synergies of Israel's always-hostile external environment.
Louis Rene Beres

Louis Rene Beres

Most of my Jewish Press columns deal with Israel’s most urgent national security problems, especially those that have, or have had, a real or prospective nuclear component. What I have never dealt with on these pages, however, are the important and corollary issues of how Israel actually makes its national security policy.

Now, auspiciously, Charles D. Freilich, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard and a professor at Tel Aviv University, has written Zion’s Dilemmas: How Israel Makes National Security Policy (Cornell University Press), an authoritative and authentically magisterial answer to this vital question. There is much here for the reader to learn.

Let me start with the author’s conclusion, because, paradoxically, it represents an ideal place for me to begin. “The Lord is my shepherd,” quotes Freilich from the Book of Psalms, “and fortunate this is, for the decision-making process in Israel is deeply flawed.” Following 256 pages of meticulous and systematic investigation – an investigation that proceeds with all of the best architecture of modern social science, including appropriately careful delineations of “‘independent” and “dependent” variables – Freilich is intent to call all things by their correct names.

This is no narrowly partisan exegesis. This is no attempt to present a uniformly positive or contrived picture of Israel’s national security establishment. To the contrary, the author offers an entirely honest and open consideration that is often conspicuously less than visceral praise. To be sure, there is also a good deal of praise in Freilich’s book for the Israeli DMP, or decision-making process, but it is correctly based on a dispassionate and detached assessment.

What we learn is that needed changes in the DMP have simply not kept up with the growing complexities and synergies of Israel’s always-hostile external environment:

“Nearly sixty-five years after independence, the same basic political processes, which so successfully gave rise to the nation in its formative years, are still largely intact.”

Especially troubling to the author, the reader will discover, is that Israel’s DMP is more “chaotic” and “politicized” than in other countries, not by any means an intrinsically fatal disadvantage, but one, nonetheless, that has still managed to generate injurious “pathologies.”

Worth noting, at this point, is that Freilich has served as a senior analyst in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and also as Israel’s deputy national security adviser. His assessments, therefore, are not simply an expression of outstanding academic scholarship, but the well-reasoned product of a distinguished and astute observer, one who has already had an important seat at the government table.

As a political scientist, I can admire the graceful way the author moves effortlessly between fashioning general theory and tendering elucidations of pertinent history. Combining the perceptual strengths of Isaiah Berlin’s “hedgehog” and “fox,” Freilich helps us see both one big decisional canvas and also many smaller, constituent elements.

Shaping a consciously nuanced model of national security decision-making in Israel, he applies it to assorted and carefully selected events of the past thirty years, ranging from Camp David I to the “disengagement” from Gaza in 2005 to the Second Lebanon War one year later.

The result is plainly disconcerting, as these seven cases reveal many critically lost opportunities, flagrantly unpardonable decisional errors, and an always highly politicized decisional context. While Freilich underscores the liabilities of Israel’s too-informal planning process, he also notes that this flawed process has allowed a relatively high degree of latitude or flexible response, as well as a gainfully self-serving sensitivity to pragmatic solutions.

Particularly helpful to the serious reader is the author’s continuous emphasis on “existential decision-making” as a critical component of Israel’s national security environment. Undoubtedly, this particular component is indispensable to understanding what drives the country’s DMP at its very core. In this connection, however, I would have liked to see greater attention paid to important details of Menachem Begin’s decision to attack Iraq’s nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981.

Of course, each reader will choose to assess the author’s selection of case studies differently according to his or her own personal hierarchy of concerns. But the connections between Operation Opera and the current threat of a nuclear Iran are unambiguously of the very highest urgency. Jurisprudentially, the attack on the Iraqi reactor was treated by Israel as a permissible expression of “anticipatory self-defense.” One may surmise that any future Israeli preemption against Iranian nuclear assets and infrastructures would have to be cast in very similar legal terms.

Freilich introduces his comprehensive and formidable book with an epigraph from New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman: “A country that sees itself living on the lip of a volcano, or inside the eerie halls of Yad Vashem, does not plan for the future, and does not think about bold initiatives. It only holds on for dear life.”

Thankfully, the entire argument of Zion’s Dilemmas impressively proves Friedman’s empty witticism to be not only glib and insensitive but also incontestably wrong. Israel, as we can learn from Freilich, actually does far more than merely “hold on for dear life.” True, its survival plans for the future are often fraught with “pathologies,” and, yes, the boldness of its initiatives are not always complemented by commensurately thoughtful policies, but, still, somehow, it has managed to survive against all odds.

A miracle, maybe. More than likely, however, it is “by wise counsel” and even by a “multitude of councilors,” that Israel will ultimately be able to ensure an enduring victory.

About the Author: Louis René Beres, strategic and military affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, is professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), he lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law and is the author of ten major books in the field. In Israel, Professor Beres was chair of Project Daniel.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Understanding Israel’s National-Security Policy”

  1. Nagy Rezső says:

    Nagyon tetszett ez az oldal érdemes volt elolvasni.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Aerial view of Yemenite Village of HaShiloach, Old City of Jerusalem and Mt. of Olives.
Jews to Double Presence in Old Yemenite Village of Shiloach, Silwan
Latest Indepth Stories
Arab children look at pictures of two of a kind - Arafat and Barghouti.

{Originally posted on author’s site, FirstOne Through} The town of Sayreville, New Jersey is in mourning. The superintendent of the town shut the high school’s football program for the rest of the year due to reports of sexual assaults made by upper classmen of the football team against the junior classmen. According to initial reports, […]

Jordan's King Abdullah

The Arab Spring has challenged Jordan with the task of gradual reform with regard to its monarchy.

The Kinneret/Sea of Galilee

Israel offered Syria the entire Golan Heights, only to find that the Syrians were demanding MORE!

Bibeye doctor

Israeli hasbara too can be described at best as pathetic, at worst non existent.

A ‘good news’ story from the Nepal avalanche disaster to warm your heart. Take out your Kleenex.

Journalists see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as morality play: Israel=evil; Palestine=innocent

Warsaw Ghetto: At its height, the Nazis walled in some 500,000 Jews within the1.3 square mile area.

While police officers face dangers every day on the job, Jews also face danger in their daily lives.

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

If Hamas is ISIS, the world asks, why didn’t Israel destroy it given justification and opportunity?

That key is the disarming of Hamas and the demilitarization of Gaza – as the U.S., EU, and others agreed to in principle at the end of Operation Protective Edge.

We have no doubt there are those who deeply desire to present themselves as being of a gender that is not consistent with their anatomy, and we take no joy in the pain and embarrassment they suffer.

Does it not seem ironic that just on the day all of Israel is joyously celebrating another year of having concluded the public reading of the entire Pentateuch, we must mournfully and even tearfully commemorate the death of the individual who imparted to us God’s Torah in the first place?

Why is “Palestine” worthier of “statehood recognition” than ISIS, another terrorist gang seeking it?

More Articles from Louis Rene Beres
Louis Rene Beres

President Obama’s core argument on a Middle East peace process is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Louis Rene Beres

Once upon a time in America, every adult could recite at least some Spenglerian theory of decline.

President Obama’s core argument is still founded on incorrect assumptions.

Specific strategic lessons from the Bar Kokhba rebellion.

Still facing an effectively unhindered nuclear threat from Iran, Israel will soon need to choose between two strategic options.

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

So much of the struggle between Israel and the Arabs continues to concern space.

An undifferentiated or across-the-board commitment to nuclear ambiguity could prove harmful to Israel’s’s overall security.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/understanding-israels-national-security-policy/2013/04/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: