Israel does not have a standard by which it makes national security policy, writes the author, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. It can best be described as a catch-as-catch-can form of policy and decision making: when there is a need, Israel fills it, but does not plan for eventualities.
Readers of this insightful book will be shocked to learn how the State of Israel determines its national security policy. Charles D. Freilich examines the various epochs and events in the decision making process. The author begins his analysis with the Camp David Accords and brings it right up to the present day. His descriptions show how time and time again, internal politics got in the way of good decision making. He demonstrates how the Knesset, Israel’s parliamentary government, was a hindrance rather than a tool in many crucial policy-making moments. Freilich notes examples of how most national security decisions were made by ad hoc, informal, and non-statutory advisory groups.
Freilich is an insider, having held the position of deputy national security advisor. In Zion’s Dilemmas, he treats his readers to an insider’s view of the very raw and tender process of Israeli decision making. It’s not all bad news: in Israel’s defense, Freilich argues that spontaneous decision making actually enabled Israel to successfully address its security concerns. The obvious benefit of seat-of-the pants planning is that decisions are streamlined; those charged with making the decisions can act quickly and are not subject to delay by law or parliamentary vote. In the end, Freilich determines, almost every decision has been realistic and based on achieving pragmatic results.