Two people, one named Benjamin Netanyahu and one named Ehud Barak, claim to be the ones to decide whether you and I will live or die. These two men - whom we rejected as prime ministers and who returned to public life after they had done enough for their families in private life. These two will decide if and when to go to war against Iran, a war that could deteriorate into a regional conflagration and turn the world against Israel.
But don't worry - as reported in Barak Ravid's interesting article in Sunday's Haaretz, Netanyahu pledged in a closed-door discussion that if a postwar inquiry is conducted, "I - I will say I am responsible." Hurray for that.
To emphasize his point, the prime minister pounded on the table and on his chest. We can drink a glass of water and relax.
But no Bibi, you are only the first among equals. You are authorized to navigate, as Yitzkak Rabin once put it, but you do not have a mandate to fly us into war. It is not enough that all the options are before you on your desk. Your obligation is to place them on the government's table. Even the eight senior ministers (until two weeks ago there were nine ) and the security cabinet (the Ministerial Committee on Security ) are not authorized to declare war.
The Basic Law on the Government states that "the government is jointly responsible to the Knesset." The Prime Minister's Office website says that "the cabinet authorizes the ministerial committees to deal with and decide on various issues. ... [A] decision of a ministerial committee has the force of a cabinet decision if, two weeks from the day the decision is promulgated, no minister submits an objection."
Moreover, the Basic Law on the Government states specifically that "the state will not go to war except by a government decision." The law goes even further. It requires the government to convey "as soon as possible" an announcement of its decision to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and also to the whole Knesset. As if to remove any doubt, the Basic Law on the Army states that the minister in charge of the army for the government is the defense minister. The emphasis is on the words "for the government." The army is answerable to the entire government, not to the prime minister and not to the defense minister. The government can authorize the cabinet to decide on a time and on means. In any case Barak's and Netanyahu's endless chatter have destroyed the element of surprise.
Responsibility for the outcome of the war rests on all 25 members of the government, down to the last of the ministers, including you, Michael Eitan and you, Yaakov Margi, you, Sofa Landver and you, Orit Noked. (Don't let them tell you that because of the Iranian threat we are already in a state of war. ) For the honor of being a minister you have to work to make sure that the prime minister doesn't pull the wool over your eyes. Every one of you will have to tell the investigative committee (and of course, the public ), what information you had when you voted to go to war against the position of the United States, what questions you asked the military brass and what decided the matter for you.
Unfortunately, the Knesset never legislated a special clause regarding missing an opportunity to come to an agreement that avoids war. It's a pity the law does not obligate the prime minister to bring for approval to the government, and to the Knesset's attention, the document containing the 21 pointless points he gave the Palestinians in February to keep the peace talks on hold. But public responsibility for abandoning the Arab peace initiative and the lawlessness prevailing in the land of the settlers rests on the entire government. Each of the ministers owes an explanation as to why he or she did not ask to see the document and did not demand that a debate be held on this essential matter.
The way Netanyahu has expressed himself - "I have not decided whether to attack" and "I will say that I am responsible" - is typical of the personality cult that has taken over political discourse in Israel and made it shallow. Instead of "I voted Likud," "I voted Kadima," or "I support Labor," you hear more and more: "I voted Bibi," I chose Tzipi" "I'm with Shelly," or "I like Lapid." Who doesn't know the winning argument: "I'm for Meretz, but voting for Zahava Gal-On irritates me?" How many Israelis whose fear of war is keeping them up at night get up in the morning and go to the town square to demonstrate so as to stop it before the investigative committee is established?
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