Knesset Approves Expanding Powers of National Security Chief

Staff chief will be privy to all matters of security and foreign affairs.

The Knesset plenum unanimously approved Tuesday in a second and third reading a bill to dramatically expand the powers of the National Security Council chief, which henceforeth will be called the National Security Staff.

According to the bill, initiated by Kadima MKs Tzachi Hanegbi and Amira Dotan, the staff chief will be able to summon for deliberations any employee of the security services, or security organization heads.

The staff chief will also handle all matters of foreign affairs and defense seen by the prime minister and will receive information updates from every state body.

The staff chief will be invited to every cabinet meeting dealing with matters of foreign affairs and defense, and will be invited to every committee meeting involving the heads of the secret services.

Hanegbi said the new role would put an end to the concealment of information from the head of the National Security Council.

The new security chief will run a national crisis management center, which will examine Israel's security outlook, offer yearly reports or multiple reports a year on the national security situation as well as prepare intelligence estimates.

The establishment of the National Security Staff comes as a result of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War. The intention is to create a new procedure for decision-making which will then present the prime minister and the cabinet with different alternatives.

Every previous National Security Council chief complained about the absence of powers and lack of partnership in the decision-making process. MK Hanegbi said that past National Security Council chiefs had turned to the newspapers for their updates.

One of the problems of the National Security Council was that prime ministers inherited staff leaders appointed by the previous prime minister and found it difficult to work with them. The new law will allow for the prime minister to appoint a person they feel comfortable working with.

Hanegbi said the goal of the changes was to include the National Security Staff in work pertaining to the peace process and war, to allow them to present various options and respective risks.

Hangebi was of the opinion that granting the staff chief wide-ranging powers would put him in a position of great strength. Some skeptics, however, said the bill still does not grant enough powers to the National Security Staff.

MK Dotan said there was a need to strengthen the staff chief even more by including in the law a clause specifying that the position-holder is a senior authority Prime Minister's Office, privy to any matter of national security. This would prevent any information from bypassing the staff chief, as has occurred in the past.

Hanegbi said the problem countering this is that it is impossible to grant a staff chief the authority to tell the prime minister how to work.