Civil-Military Relations in Israel
by Yehuda Ben Meir
New York: Columbia University Press, 1995. 235 pp. $29.95.
Reviewed by David Rodman
Middle East Quarterly
Does the Israeli military exert too much influence over the government? Many Israeli academic experts, such as Yoram Peri, think so. Ben Meir, a deputy foreign minister in the early 1980s, takes a more optimistic view. He argues convincingly that the military poses absolutely no threat to Israeli democracy. It has never interfered in the state's electoral process, nor has it ever refused to carry out the orders of the civilian authorities. But he believes the military has too large a voice in national-security planning and foreign affairs. Also, the military-industrial complex has controlled state policy when it comes to selling arms abroad. This situation occasionally leads to occasional mishaps (such as arms sales to Guatemala and El Salvador, and the Iran\contra affair).
Ben Meir correctly sees that the military's influence over the government will remain strong so long as Israel is threatened, but he holds that the most glaring flaws in civil-military relations can be fixed now. To that end, he offers a number of sensible recommendations. First, the government should codify the chain of command at the highest level: the prime minister, defense minister, director general of the defense ministry, and chief of staff. Secondly, to increase civilian involvement in national security and foreign policy, the prime minister should create a staff of civilian experts to concentrate on these matters. Surprisingly, though Ben Meir notes the inadequate legislative and judicial control over the military, he does not propose any significant changes in these areas.
Related Topics: Israel & Zionism | David Rodman | September 1995 MEQ
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