The Knesset passed a law Monday evening that will transfer authority from the government to the cabinet—and in some case to the prime minister and defense minister only—to declare war and to launch military operations.
The law constitutes an amendment to the country’s Basic Law: The Government, and will now require the prime minister to declare war by obtaining the approval of the cabinet only rather than the government as a whole, including in the absence of some members.
Sixty-two MKs voted in favor of the bill, while 41 voted against in the Knesset Plenum as the country’s law-making body opened for its first summer session.
The law, which was spearheaded by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) and Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Avi Dichter (Likud), also permits the prime minister and defense minister to declare war in extreme circumstances.
“The law reflects reality. In the era of social media, rapid information and the danger of leaks, we must adapt ourselves to the present state security requirements and streamline the work of the government and cabinet as much as possible,” Shaked said.
“That is the goal of the law and it adapts legislation to the reality that has existed for years.”
The law has its origins in 2016, a statement explaining it says, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tasked the Committee on the work of the Political-Security Cabinet, headed by Yaakov Amidror, to compile recommendations regarding the training of new cabinet ministers, information to new cabinet ministers and for preparing the ministers for cabinet meetings.
“The recommendations by the committee were presented to the prime minister in December 2016. The committee’s report included a string of recommendations that were intended to improve the decision-making process by the cabinet on security and national matters and on Israel’s foreign relations, by institutionalizing processes and implementing tools to streamline its operations,” the statement read.
According to Dichter, there is no correlation between the timing of the law’s ratification and the mounting security tensions.
“When we look at the reality of the past few years, whether in the north or south, we have built a prudent deterrence capability,” he said. “This bill proposal was intended to provide a final answer regarding how the state wants to operate in accordance with the law. Without flexibility there is no real ability to function.”
The law came under attack from Joint List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman. “I don’t know whether this is cynical or sad that we are discussing this bill on this day, of all days,” she said prior to the law’s passage. “The bill will enable two people to take not only the State of Israel into war but all the countries in the region.”
By Moran Azulay and Shahar Hay, Ynet News