Zion's Dilemmas

Zion's Dilemmas

How Israel Makes National Security Policy

eBook - 2013
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Cornell University Press

In Zion's Dilemmas, a former deputy national security adviser to the State of Israel details the history and, in many cases, the chronic inadequacies in the making of Israeli national security policy. Chuck Freilich identifies profound, ongoing problems that he ascribes to a series of factors: a hostile and highly volatile regional environment, Israel's proportional representation electoral system, and structural peculiarities of the Israeli government and bureaucracy.

Freilich uses his insider understanding and substantial archival and interview research to describe how Israel has made strategic decisions and to present a first of its kind model of national security decision-making in Israel. He analyzes the major events of the last thirty years, from Camp David I to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, through Camp David II, the Gaza Disengagement Plan of 2000, and the second Lebanon war of 2006.

In these and other cases he identifies opportunities forgone, failures that resulted from a flawed decision-making process, and the entanglement of Israeli leaders in an inconsistent, highly politicized, and sometimes improvisational planning process. The cabinet is dysfunctional and Israel does not have an effective statutory forum for its decision-making—most of which is thus conducted in informal settings. In many cases policy objectives and options are poorly formulated. For all these problems, however, the Israeli decision-making process does have some strengths, among them the ability to make rapid and flexible responses, generally pragmatic decision-making, effective planning within the defense establishment, and the skills and motivation of those involved. Freilich concludes with cogent and timely recommendations for reform.


This book details the history and, in many cases, the chronic inadequacies in the making of Israeli national security policy, as well as its strengths: rapid and flexible responses, generally pragmatic decision-making, and effective planning.

Book News
Freilich (a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former deputy national security advisor to the State of Israel) analyzes national security decision making in Israel over the past 30 years. Avowedly committed to the Zionist project, he is nonetheless critical of the decision-making process, arguing that it is characterized by an absence of policy planning processes by the premier and cabinet-level forums; a deep politicization; a lack of top-down control (particularly when politicization is high); a failure to institutionalize the process, resulting in highly idiosyncratic decision making, and an outsized influence of military personnel as the primary source of expertise and bureaucratic players. He supports these findings through examinations of the case studies of the Camp David negotiations, the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the subsequent withdrawal in 2000, the 2005 "disengagement" from Gaza, the 2006 Lebanon War, and the development and cancellation of the Lavi combat aircraft. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Publisher: Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2013
ISBN: 9780801465741
0801465745
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xvii, 318 pages)

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