Zion’s Dilem­mas: How Israel Makes Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Policy

Charles D. Freilich
  • Review
By – August 18, 2014

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.

Relat­ed content:

Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

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