Liberty and Security
Civil Liberties and Internal Security
The Local Police Chief – Elected by the Public
At the heart of the agreement between citizens and their countries is that citizens give up some of their freedom and entrust the state with the authority to exercise power. In exchange, states maintain the safety of citizens and protect their remaining freedoms from external and internal threats. But human nature and historical experience show that the renunciation of liberty may become a slippery slope, for any entity that receives power will always strive to preserve and increase it. In order to curb this trend, the active involvement of citizens is required.
The police are no exception. Like any monopolistic state body, the police want to expand their powers and receive more resources. This naturally leads to a distortion of the relations between the citizen and the police officer. Civilians cease to be customers and instead become superfluous or even obstacles, in an attempt by police chiefs to gain power and authority. This distortion causes many negative behaviors, which are too common among Israeli police officers: from basic lack of courtesy to harassment of passersby and unreasonable searches to violent and unnecessary confrontations with civilians, which end too often with a complaint of assaulting a police officer against anyone who dares to complain.
In order to correct the distortion, citizens should be involved in supervising the police and determining their priorities. The Zehut Party will allow such involvement by transferring to communities the right to choose the police commanders who will serve them.
When the community chooses the local police chief, the relations between the police and the citizens will return to their proper state. The police chief will understand that he is working for the citizens and on their behalf, and will pass this concept down to the policemen under his command. A commander who wants to be re-elected will ensure that his subordinates treat civilians with courtesy and efficiency, and are careful to protect their rights. When the police devote most of their efforts to community service, their status in the community will rise accordingly. Instead of citizens being afraid and suspicious of the police, they will respect and trust them. In such a community, it is much more likely that civilians will report crimes and cooperate with the police when necessary.
Cancellation of the Biometric Database
A biometric database is a computerized database of biometric data, such as fingerprints and facial features. Unlike a biometric ID that allows biometric data to be protected against leakage, a biometric database is a digital collection of these data that is stored in searchable form. Such a database allows the identification of a person without the need for a card, without his consent and sometimes even without his knowledge.
One difference between a pool of biometric data and another, for example, of passwords or credit cards, is that passwords or credit cards can be canceled and replaced if they leak, while fingerprints and facial features cannot.
The stated problem that the biometric database is ostensibly designed to solve is that of forged Israeli identity cards being issued by impostors. This problem does indeed exist, but it can be solved by means of smart cards containing “encrypted” biometric information, such as fingerprint information - without the possibility of retrieving the information and without the need for a central database.
The danger of serious crime by means of data, the leakage of which from the database is only a matter of time, is far greater than the present danger of forged documents. The root of the state’s desire to maintain such a reservoir lies in another reason. The regime has a natural tendency to seek to expand its powers at the expense of civil liberties - and the ultimate excuse for this is usually the security of citizens. The possession of information about civilians is power in the hands of the government, and the more of this information there is, the greater the power of the government.
The foolishness of creating a biometric database is clear. All the problems that the database has officially come to solve, can be solved without a database. A smart card containing encrypted and concise biometric information will protect against all counterfeits, without the dangers and problems of a biometric database.
The Zehut Party will immediately cancel the biometric law, and in particular the biometric database, and will restore the citizens’ privacy and freedom.
Ceasing the Persecution of Cannabis Consumers
In the State of Israel, it is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of active cannabis consumers and over one million residents who have used cannabis at least once. Cannabis is not dangerous and is no more addictive than other substances that are legal, such as alcohol and tobacco. The vast majority of users of cannabis are normal people who do not harm anyone.
As such, there is no justification for treating cannabis consumers as criminals with criminal records. There is no justification for the severe punishment for consuming cannabis - up to three years in prison. There is no justification for the manpower and resources that the police invest in enforcement activities against cannabis, which cost the Israeli public hundreds of millions of shekels each year. Moreover, there is a great danger that the state will exploit the threat that hangs over these Israelis, who have not harmed anyone.
We seek to create a legal infrastructure that will allow for legally growing and commercializing cannabis, even for non-medicinal purposes, in which any interested adult will be able to legally consume cannabis. To this end, regulations must ensure that the acquisition of cannabis will be done consciously and by adults, without creating restrictions that are intended to make such a purchase difficult or unpleasant.
Zehut will advocate for responsible legalization of the use and trade of cannabis and its components, while establishing appropriate regulations, similar to the rules and restrictions on sales of alcohol. As with all types of regulation, it will be necessary to examine the need for these regulations as well, and to update them from time to time, in accordance with lessons learned from events in Israel and from similar processes in other countries around the world. These are the main conditions that the Zehut Party will adopt in the first phase:
The use of cannabis and its components, non-commercial cultivation, possession or purchase shall not be criminal offenses.
The minimum age for the purchase of Cannabis will be 21, and the penalty for the sale or supply of cannabis or its ingredients to a person younger than the minimum age of purchase shall be the same as the penalty for the sale or supply of an intoxicant to a minor, with the responsibility falling on the seller or supplier, and not on the buyer.
The sale of cannabis and its ingredients in places of entertainment will be prohibited. The penalty for such sale shall be a monetary fine.
A business that wants to sell cannabis or its ingredients will need an appropriate business license, similar to that which is required today to sell alcohol. The sole purpose of the licensing will be to ensure that the business will make it clear to customers that they are purchasing cannabis products and comply with regulations, particularly the regulation prohibiting sale or supply to customers who are below the minimum age. Violation of the regulations will be grounds for revocation of the license.
Captivity for Enemies instead of Administrative Detention for Everyone
Inherent tension festers between individual freedom and the reality of a state of war. Wars, by their very essence, do not take place between individuals but between collective entities. In war, the absolute obligation to protect the rights of individuals is rejected by the constraints of reality and by the right and duty of every state to defend itself and its citizens. This principle is well understood and accepted in the world, according to which norms of approach to the enemy are determined - both for combatants and for the civilian population.
Among other things, this principle enables the state to capture its enemies. The state cannot judge and punish an enemy for fighting it, so long as he is fighting according to accepted moral norms and the laws of war. However, it can capture him or restrict his actions and movement in other ways in order to maintain its security and the security of its citizens and fighters. In wartime, captivity is considered the most just and humane response to the enemy’s threat to state security.
For decades, despite the reality on the ground, the State of Israel refuses to recognize that it is at war with enemies who seek to harm its sovereignty or destroy it. Since the state does not recognize war, it does not recognize enemies as enemies. The state treats its enemies as criminals and takes care of them through its legal system. However, the legal system is not equipped to deal with enemies, as was known to the authors of the laws of warfare. To deal with this, the state adopted the hybrid solution called administrative detention.
Administrative detention is a tool that enables a state to hold a person in prison conditions for long periods and to interrogate him without trial, without presenting any evidence against him, without accusing him of a crime, and without granting the right to consult with lawyers. This severely violates the right of administrative detainees to due process.
The state’s ability to use administrative detention is a corrupting power. The state can use it to bypass all the mechanisms that allow for a fair trial, without any transparency or criticism. A free country cannot hold such power.
It is a mistake to think that this tool serves the state only against enemies. Although most detainees are suspected of terrorism, some of them are suspected of other offenses that are not warlike in nature and sometimes not even violent. The possibility of using administrative detention against organized crime has also been raised more than once, inter alia, by Yitzhak Aharonovitch as Minister of Public Security. As long as the state has the right to make administrative detentions, there is no real way to limit their use.
Zehut will prohibit the use of administrative detention. The State of Israel will officially recognize that it is at war and will learn to distinguish between enemies and criminals. Enemies will be captured or otherwise restricted, depending on the circumstances. They will not be charged or judged or accorded the status of criminals unless they violate the laws of war. Criminals will be tried in the criminal justice system and will be brought to justice, while maintaining their right to a fair trial. This does not mean that punishing them will be less severe than the measures taken against enemies, including enemies who have committed crimes, but it will not be carried out in the same framework.
The term “harm to state security” is too broad and does not fit the definition of the enemy. The state can declare foreign states or armed groups operating against Israel, which are not associated with a government as hostile organizations. An enemy shall be a person fighting in the framework of a hostile organization or whose loyalty is given to it, a person who acts to harm Israeli sovereignty or endanger the existence of the state for hostile purposes, or a member of an organization with those objectives.
Captivity is not a means of punishment and it should not be used as such. It is intended solely to prevent the enemy from harming the state, and there is nothing in captivity that expresses a moral stance towards him. The state will have to protect the safety and dignity of its captives. The State shall be entitled to interrogate, hold or exchange them in the context of an exchange of prisoners. In general, at the end of the war, warring parties release their captives, unless those prisoners are tried for violations of the laws of war.
The state has the right to judge enemies who have violated the laws of war when they acted against it, even while they are in captivity. The customary laws of war also recognize this. Anyone who is accused of violating the laws of war will be entitled to a fair trial, although he will not be tried in the civil justice system. Furthermore, the manner in which his right to a fair trial will be guaranteed will be different from the manner in which this right is guaranteed for a citizen who commits a crime. There are universally accepted definitions of justice for those who violated the laws of war and the State of Israel will judge according to these.
We must recognize war - and win it. War leads to the inevitable violation of the rights of the individual, both of the citizens of the state and of non-combatants in areas controlled by the enemy. Non-recognition of the state of war and its slow management and low intensity for decades have led to an ongoing erosion of the status of individual rights, in addition to a large amount of physical and psychological damage, as well as damage to property and economy that could and should have been prevented. In order to end the suffering from the ravages of war, we must win the war - and bring peace.
Eliminating Police Violence
The role of the police is not to judge or punish, but to prevent violations of the law. But in Israel, a person falsely arrested – even if he not committed a crime – is required to give fingerprints - if necessary by force - contrary to what was done in the past. The falsely arrested person is also required to sign a bail guarantee. If he refuses, his arrest will be extended under various and sundry pretexts, despite the fact that there is no reason to do so.
In fact, the police are in a constant struggle against the citizen and his freedom. The Israeli citizen prefers not to encounter a police officer and chooses not to turn to the police for help. A citizen whom the police do not like can easily find himself the object of severe police violence, followed by charges of assaulting a policeman, and then at trial, having to prove that the opposite is true. The system has all the time in the world - it is the citizen who pays for it. The small citizen has no real power before it, and few are the cases in which he is proven to be in the right.
The police officer should see himself as a public servant. When the commanders of local police stations are elected by the local residents, a change will occur in the consciousness of the police. Unlawful police violence against civilians should be punished very severely - including substantial compensation taken out of the police officer’s salary.
The Approach toward Non-violent Civil Disobedience
The developed free countries recognize that there are situations that justify a formal violation of the law. Norms and rules of conduct in such cases have become one of the foundations of modern democracy. When it comes to individuals, it is ideological refusal; but when it comes to an entire community, it is “polite civil disobedience,” or according to the inaccurate translation that has taken root in Israel: “non-violent civil disobedience.” Mass civil disobedience carries a far more significant message than the refusal of a few individuals. Large groups that are no longer able to accept the injustices of the government and are willing to violate the law passively, while paying the price involved, point out the extreme injustice into which an insensitive regime is leading its subjects.
A widespread outbreak of civil disobedience is an excellent test of the democratic nature of the government. The common person is not naturally interested in violating the law, but rather in taking care of his normal life, his family, and his livelihood. The average citizen is naturally interested in being led by clear leadership, and obeying it. Obedience is human nature, and breaking the barrier of obedience is an act that is contrary to human nature. An entire public that goes to the streets in a restrained manner (unlike a mob), with the willingness to break the law and pay the price, should be a red light for every democratic government. A bulb that screams in white letters: You broke the rules of the game - not the formal rules, but the the rules that are more important, the basic framework upon which the values of the nation are based. A regime that ignores such protest - even if the law is on its side - cannot boast of its “democracy”. The clear line between the obligation to uphold law and order, and the rare but essential need to violate it in certain situations, enables both the principles of the law as well as the moral principle to exist.
Today we know that in all cases where civil disobedience has broken out in Western democracies, this act of rebellion promoted the rule of law and democracy in those countries and prevented severe moral distortions in their institutions. Civil disobedience is an invaluable balancing tool against the arbitrariness of the ruling class, a tool that has always been good for the countries that have accepted it, and has never led to anarchy.
Since Israel’s establishment, no such attitude has developed towards the concept of civil disobedience. Every time this tool has been tried by civilians in an attempt to protest non-violently while breaking the law against a policy they considered a fundamental injustice, the state’s response has been to suppress the phenomenon with violence, along with a constant attempt to paint the demonstrators as the violent side, with the violent response above reproach.
The Zehut Party grew out of the roots of the “Zo Artzeinu” movement. Passive demonstrators from this movement experienced the harsh violence of the police, who were sent by the Israeli government for this purpose. This reality is a moral blight that must be eliminated.
Moreover, it is precisely this State approach that encourages the growth of violent marginal groups across the political spectrum. When the government does not deal with passive demonstrators in a non-violent manner, but employs forceful intimidation instead, it invites direct violent resistance from those who may despair of influencing the public by non-violent means.
Zehut is committed to bringing about a policy that distinguishes between violent protests and non-violent protests, and undertakes to refrain from using violence against non-violent struggles, even if they violate the law. There are more than enough legal tools in the hands of the state to deal with violations of the law, and a government that is confident in its policy should not be afraid to prosecute demonstrators who are willing to break the law with the full force of the law for their crimes. Police use of violence should be limited to dealing with truly violent situations.
When the government recognizes the fundamental difference between violent disobedience and non-violent disobedience, its ability to deal with violent demonstrations will indeed increase greatly. When the police employ violent against everyone, it has no legitimacy in the eyes of the public to be violent towards anyone. But when the police exercise force only against those who exercise it themselves, they will have the full legitimacy needed to act with full force against anyone who tries to violently coerce his views onto society.
The Right to Bear Arms
The right to bear arms derives directly from the right to self-defense. Even when citizens delegate the right to exercise force to the state, they do not waive their fundamental right to protect their lives, the lives of their families, and the lives of those around them from immediate threats of violence. This is an inalienable right, if only because from the moment when the danger is revealed until security forces arrive at the scene, there is no one else to protect them.
When the state prevents citizens from possessing weapons for self-defense, it undermines this right. The state’s argument is that this is done for our security, but it is not really. Those affected by the prohibition of carrying weapons are mainly law-abiding citizens. Criminals already have access to illegal weapons and have no fear of possessing them. Besides, criminals with violent backgrounds would be prohibited from holding licensed weapons in any case. In fact, if civilians are permitted to possess weapons for self-defense, they will be safer from criminals, who will have to think twice before robbing or breaking into a house in the dead of night due to the fear of encountering an armed civilian.
It is also hard to believe that the present prohibition stems from the fear that civilians will not use weapons responsibly. The prohibition applies today to the vast majority of IDF veterans as well. From the age of 18, the State of Israel has already entrusted them with weapons and sometimes forced them to take them home with them during their military service. The state relies on these soldiers in the regular army and reserves to make reasoned decisions while they are serving its purposes and defending it. Similarly, it can rely on them when they seek to exercise their right to defend themselves.
The state’s desire to limit the ability of civilians to carry weapons for self-defense has nothing to do with public safety. The restrictions stem from the natural desire of the state to rule and control the lives of citizens and to maintain their dependence on it. It is no coincidence that when tyrants rise to power, they rush to collect weapons from the citizens.
Zehut recognizes the right to carry weapons for self-defense as one of the basic human rights. The state is not the authority that gives a person the right to defend himself – it only has the authority to deny this right to someone who is a risk to society, intentionally or unintentionally.
As a first step towards implementing this principle, we will allow any military veteran without a history of violence and without known physical and mental limitations to obtain a license to carry weapons for self-defense, subject to the completion of a course in the use of a pistol. At the same time, we will formulate a plan to expand the permit from military veterans to all Israeli citizens.
Part Two - Israel’s Security
National Security Concept:
Decisiveness and Victory instead of “Containment” and “Rounds”
In a country that arose after the Holocaust and whose citizens are still being murdered because they are Jews, the ethos of security is fundamental. The public has a healthy instinct for security and common sense, but usually lacks the tools to recognize and understand modern military technology, security and war. It lacks the tools to separate prejudice, facts, lessons, and constructive criticism of the defense establishment. The public is forced to rely upon experts, ostensibly of high rank, who are products and beneficiaries of a system that perpetuates itself and its friends - and its often-erroneous perceptions.
The resounding failure of the defense establishment to maintain the level of security that we were accustomed to before the Oslo Accords - to keep the home front outside the cycle of fighting, without security guards everywhere, without missiles aimed at our homes, without tunnels, and without a nuclear threat –requires fundamental rectification. This rectification, however, is not possible at this time because the “containment” school of thought has replaced that of decisive victory. Any attempt to turn back the clock threatens the careers of members of a widespread elite, which were built around the “peace” industry of the Oslo Accords.
The ethos of security has also been loaded with a host of interests and values that have nothing to do with security. The army is not meant to be an arena for social struggles. It is not supposed to educate, create “gender equality,” “societal equality” or broadcast news programs and commentary.
The IDF is supposed to serve only one purpose: to create a formidable deterrent against an attack on the State of Israel. And if deterrence is not enough - to decisively defeat the enemy as quickly as possible, with the fewest Israeli casualties. The IDF must do so at such a price to the enemy that it will create a new deterrent against another “round” for as many decades as possible. This is absolutely possible. For example, since the cease-fire agreement following the Yom Kippur War, and until the Syrian regime collapsed, there was total quiet in the Golan for 36 consecutive years. The regimes in Egypt and Jordan also agreed to peace with Israel only after they suffered crushing military defeats by the IDF.
Given the enormous financial and human capital invested in the IDF, we have the right to demand that it focus on what is essential, and to give maximum value for the investment.
In order to produce the efficient and high quality army that defeats Israel’s enemies quickly and efficiently, saves lives and money, deters and paves the way for peace, the IDF must rehabilitate the value system it has lost since the Oslo Accords. Inverting the traditional values of the military from victory to containment, and abandoning the most basic principles of war, such as a concerted effort to win decisively, has led to huge budgetary waste, damage to the IDF’s training and combat capability, loss of the ability to win, and many unnecessary fatalities.
It is possible, for example, to invest enormous resources in many Iron Dome batteries and deploy large forces around the Gaza Strip, on flights over it and in the sea beyond it. One can try to “contain” the threat every minute of every day for years. On the other hand, it is possible to win the battle and eliminate the enemy. In any campaign in which we rely on “containment” as a strategy, we will not win, and we will continue to “absorb” attacks and losses.
The IDF of today no longer strives for victory. Victory is no longer in its conceptual world, because the society that sent it on its mission no longer believes in the justice of its own existence, to say nothing of its right to decisively defeat its enemies.
The IDF strives for containment. But the containment perpetuates the state of legitimacy of violence against Israel and undermines Israel’s legitimacy in the world, and even at home. It requires much larger forces and resources, which will never be enough, leads to a larger number of dead and wounded, year after year, without end - and ensures the next war, under tougher conditions.
The loss of the value of victory and the pursuit of it has led to the fact that senior military commanders, instead of inspiring the political echelon with confidence in the possibility of backing their policies through the IDF, do just the opposite. An example of this behavior is based on recorded evidence of former Security Minister Ehud Barak, which show that it was the military echelon - and not the civilian leadership - that prevented the attack and destruction of the nuclear facilities in Iran. Many additional public statements of generals and chiefs of staff indicate that they are fixated on the “containment” approach, and reject outright the possibility of decisively winning, even when it is within their reach. This approach has also flourished in Israel’s internal security. For example, the Shin Bet’s objection to outlawing of the Islamic Movement in Israel - against the wishes of the political echelon - which unanimously decided to do so.
On the eve of the Six-Day War, Israel faced an immediate existential threat. The IDF planned to launch the entire air force at once to attack Egyptian air force bases, and only after that decisive, opening blow, “to start” the war. The heads of the defense establishment radiated self-confidence and high morale. At one point, they even threatened to resign if they were not allowed to attack because they knew that if we continued to wait until the Arab armies attacked first, the price in blood would be heavy and Israel would be in serious danger. Thus each side performed its true role. The civilian leadership weighed all the considerations, and finally decided, and the military leadership, ready and determined to fight, gave the leaders of the nation the confidence and the tools to carry out that decision.
The situation today has reversed itself, and even when the civilian leadership already understands that there is no alternative but to attack, and to win decisively, it is the generals of the army and the security forces who not only do not push forward, but on the contrary - block the leaders.
This reached its climax when Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Golan, in his Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day speech (2016), placed Israeli society and the IDF on a level with the Nazi army and warned against similar developments. This was not a gaffe, but the result of years-long indoctrination of IDF officers and fighters by means of external organizations, some supported by the New Israel Fund. This indoctrination undermines the foundations of Israeli identity and justice, prevents the enemy from being identified as such, and uproots the element of victory from IDF discourse.
The way to build an efficient and victorious army is primarily through rehabilitation and building up the values of the army. Only on the basis of correct values will it be possible:
To produce a proper combat strategy.
To derive from it correct combat tactics and a supportive moral framework - without legal intervention during operations - and full legal support for soldiers.
To recruit only those who are really needed, while providing fair wages in accordance with the volunteer army proposal that Zehut is advancing.
To provide the equipment that best suits operational requirements, without the influence of foreign elements in the form of ‘aid’ from foreign countries.
Full professional training that conforms to the operational requirements in every sector and in every corps, so that every soldier will have long-term professional capability in his position.
Defining the purpose of all combat as decisive defeat of the enemy. In this framework, the enemy being combatted will be defined as people or organizations or states, and not weapons such as terror tunnels and rockets. It will also be possible to define the achievements that must be reached at the end of the fighting.
If the above conditions are met, it will be possible to achieve victory in practice.
An entire generation of commanders and soldiers grew into a world of “postmodern” concepts of “narratives” - a world without truth and lies, good and evil. That world has no place for justice and certainly not for victory.
When there is no victory, the war never ends, and when the war does not end, peace cannot begin.
Click here for Appendix: The Oslo Report
Click here for Appendix: Israel's Security Since Oslo Part 1
Click here for Appendix: Israel's Security Since Oslo Part 2
The IDF Recruitment Model
Towards a Professional Volunteer Army
The great changes in military technology since the establishment of the state, as well as the great demographic change in Israel’s situation since then, have changed both the “demand” and the “supply” of manpower for the IDF. On the one hand, the IDF needs more and more quality manpower, which requires long-term professional training and a long term of service of one to several years, in order to fully return the investment in its training -whether the soldiers are combatants or combat supporters. On the other hand, because of this change in the needs of the IDF, there are now more and more compulsory recruits that the IDF does not really need, but has been forced to keep in service for two or three years, in non-essential positions, to the point of creating “hidden unemployment.”
Our vision is to shorten the compulsory service that applies to everyone - meaning everyone - to basic training only. Anyone who wishes to continue serving in the professional army can apply, and from the candidates the army will choose those it truly needs. Recruits will be paid a respectable salary, based on the average wage in the economy. They will receive the most advanced training and equipment, an academic education and high social status thanks to their contribution to national security and the good conditions they receive.
This model already exists in many professions in the IDF, and should be extended to the entire army, including:
Shortening Compulsory Service
In 1949, the duration of compulsory service was two years for men and one year for women. In 1965, the duration of compulsory service was two years and two months for men, and one year and eight months for women. Today, the duration of service is two years and eight months for men and two years for women, and the IDF has a manpower surplus . Compulsory service will be shortened, as gradually as possible, as will be determined after a thorough examination in full coordination with the IDF, and as an integral part of the entire program proposed here.
In 2015, the IDF offered to shorten compulsory service as part of its multi-year program, and place a central emphasis on young career soldiers. This is an excellent first step in the right direction.
Option for Early Release
In addition to shortening compulsory military service for all, the IDF will be given a much easier option to release soldiers who are not needed before the end of their service. The change will be carried out gradually and as an integral part of the overall plan proposed here.
Raising the Soldiers’ Wages
Those who serve in the IDF in a meaningful and essential service, in compulsory service, in the regular army, or in reserve service, especially in the young career army, and those whose military profession demanded the extension of their service to the regular army will be rewarded well: with wages, studies, housing and other benefits that will reflect, economically and socially, the status worthy of our soldiers. Those whose service is not needed by the IDF will be released as soon as possible to civilian life, and will contribute as civilians to the state and society.
The change proposed here in IDF service, together with the fundamental change in the concept of security from “containment” to decisiveness, will enable the IDF to be smaller and budgetary, and much more effective and strong, deterrent and triumphant.
The Gradual Change
In order not to carry out a rapid revolution in IDF recruitment that could endanger our existence, the change described here will be implemented gradually, in a process that will take years, in full coordination with the IDF, and with all necessary caution. We will advance this process only as long as it strengthens the power of the IDF.
Refusal of Conscription and Conscientious Objection:
The Situation Today
The phenomenon of conscientious objection and the proper toward it has been dealt with in all free countries over the past century. Unfortunately, Israel is not a particularly positive example of this, since the method used in Israel to deal with conscientious objection is the “attrition” method. Conscientious objectors enter military prison time after time for short periods, with the military establishment expecting that this will ultimately cause them to give up, as indeed many of them do. Those who do not surrender exhaust the military system and are finally released without recognition as conscientious objectors, but within the context of evasive definitions of incompatibility.
The Moral and Practical Damages
The current policy is immoral and does no honor to the state and the IDF, and most especially emphasizes the state’s deep insecurity about the justice of its path.
First, the failure to recognize conscientious objection as a phenomenon with a defined legal status conveys a message. The message is that conscience is not a factor that must be taken into account, but rather repressed. Today, the approach towards soldiers who refuse to serve ignores their moral error on the one hand, and gives no recognition to their personal right to obey their conscience on the other.
In order to blur the phenomenon of refusals and desertion, the army frequently overlooks soldiers or commanders who stop showing up for duty, and continue to pay their salaries (even when it comes to permanent salaries), so long as the fact of their refusal of military service is not made known.
The damage in this phenomenon is crystal clear. The people of Israel have never believed in blind obedience that overrides the demands of values. Such an approach is repugnant to Judaism by its very nature, whether an individual supports conscientious objection or not. The result is doubt whether the military apparatus expresses justice beyond the coercive power it has been given. The power of the army against refusal to serve is in its justice, and not in its ability to send soldiers to jail until they are persuaded to give up a principled struggle.
The Right to be Held Accountable for the Choice of Conscience
Zehut believes that a society that is confident in the justice of its moral path can deal with the phenomenon of refusal in a much more genuine and direct manner. There is no country whose wars and the fulfillment of its security needs are more just and moral than the State of Israel. Therefore, there is no reason to deal with the phenomenon as it is today.
Zehut will act to establish a procedure as follows:
Any citizen who is about to be drafted will be able to declare to the military authorities that he refuses to serve in the Israel Defense Forces for reasons of conscience.
After this declaration, he will be tried before a military court, in which he will be required to prove that his reasons are indeed conscientious and not pragmatic.
If the court is convinced of his sincerity, he will be sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for conscientious objection, to be determined by law.
After serving, he will be released from the IDF immediately.
This procedure will also apply to soldiers who, during their service, conclude that their military service is inconsistent with their consciences.
As a clear expression of our knowledge and belief that a person who chooses not to serve for reasons of conscience is mistaken and may retract his mistake, it must be stated that:
If the soldier retracts his decision while serving his sentence, the army will allow him to continue his service as prescribed by law.
This approach emphasizes the need to deal with the phenomenon, which stems from the clear belief of the people and the State in the justice of their path. This belief enables the State to look directly at the citizen who refuses to enlist and make a clear statement to him: “You are right that a person must obey his conscience, and you are not being punished for this. You are being punished for adhering to erroneous values and harming your people and your country, to whom you are indebted.”
Blunting the Sting by Transitioning to a Professional Army
All of the above will lose much of its relevance when Israel gradually moves to a recruitment and service model more like a professional volunteer army. When any citizen who is not interested in spending a significant part of his life in professional military service is recruited for a relatively short period of time and does not involve confrontation with anyone - refusal to enlist or conscientious service will become a mere demonstration. In such a situation, the sting of confrontation with it will be blunted, and the extent of the phenomenon will diminish.
The Iranian Threat
“If one comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first” – Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin.
“The quickest way to end wars is to eliminate the bastards who start them” - George Patton.
The Danger of De-legitimization of Israel’s Existence
Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran means the ability to destroy Israeli cities all at once and to obliterate their residents. In the face of this danger, Israel continues to equip itself with weapons for attack and defense, and acts to delay Iran’s nuclear program. Israel does not, however, eliminate the danger as it has in the past, when the IDF attacked and destroyed the nuclear facilities in Iraq (1981) and in Syria (2007).
The main danger, however, lies not in the nuclear weapon itself. Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran, with all their frightful dimensions of destruction, will not entirely destroy even a country like Israel. The fear of nuclear weapons in the hands of our enemies blinds us to the actual danger of this weapon.
Commentators rightly add that Iran’s nuclear progress will inevitably lead to a nuclear and conventional arms race throughout the Middle East, which will further increase the threat to Israel. This is an arms race that has already begun, and has intensified since the “nuclear agreement” in 2015 made it clear that the United States and the “world” will allow Iran to reach the nuclear threshold without interference. Even the economic sanctions that made things very difficult for Iran have been removed, and all of the world’s arms suppliers (except for Israel) are now lining up to accept their share in Iran’s rich “shopping list” on the one hand and their worried neighbors on the other (including Israel). The Middle East is now flooded with more and more advanced weapons, and soon, perhaps even nuclear weapons.
However, the real danger is the de-legitimization of the very existence of a Jewish state in the world. The Iranians are explicitly threatening us with annihilation, without real response, and the world is once again growing accustomed to the idea.
In order to understand the depth of the danger, it suffices to recall that this happened to us in the not so distant past. The Holocaust did not begin in the death camps. The Holocaust began with Hitler’s speeches of hatred, in which he spoke explicitly about the annihilation of European Jewry. When a head of state announces his intention to exterminate the Jews, and the world goes about its business, the international legitimacy of Jewish existence disappears, and our destruction is once again perceived as legitimate.
When the Iranian rulers explicitly announced their intention to “wipe Israel off the map,” while investing enormous resources in their military nuclear program, the world expected an Israeli response in accordance with the “Begin Doctrine” which explicitly stated: “Under no circumstances will we allow the enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our People. We will defend the citizens of Israel pre-emptively, and by all the means at our disposal.”
But while the Israeli response stalled, Iran’s leaders intensified their statements about Israel, increasing the pace of their nuclear program, and the process of delegitimizing Israel’s very existence began anew.
Instead of acting against the danger, Netanyahu worked steadily to transfer responsibility from Israel to “the world,” lowering Israel’s status in the world from that of a sovereign state that would clearly defend itself to the status Czechoslovakia had on the eve of the Munich Conference in 1938. In the eyes of the world, Israel became a state that has renounced its right to determine its own destiny, and now others determine its fate - in accordance with their own interests, of course.
This change in Israel’s status has already happened, and the similarity between the 1938 Czech leader who was not allowed to participate in discussions about the fate of his country and Netanyahu, who was not allowed to participate in the nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, is a horrifying similarity. Instead of acting as an independent state, Israeli leaders accustom themselves, the Israeli public and the world to the fact that Israel refrains from operating without a “green light” from the world - not only in the nuclear field, but also in Gaza and Lebanon. They have said so repeatedly, explicitly and publicly.
Israel today is stronger militarily and economically than ever, and continues to grow steadily. But in terms of its national strength, its international standing and the justness of its existence, Israel is at the weakest point since the beginning of the War of Independence. Our continued existence has become a subject of open and public discussion in the world. At the end of the day, what counts is not what you can do, but what you actually do.
Elimination and Deterrence of Enemy Leaders
The enemy is not the Iranian nuclear bomb and its development and production facilities, but the Iranian regime. Whoever seeks to destroy us, and invests the best resources of his people in the development and equipping of the weapons intended for this purpose, is the enemy. He, not his weapon. In war, the main target of the attack is the enemy itself, not the weapons and other means. Certainly weapons can and should be damaged, in accordance with the “Begin Doctrine”, but weapons are not the enemy.
The heads of the Iranian regime who call for our destruction and are doing everything in their power to advance this are the enemy. They are the “head of the snake,” and eliminating them is necessary, moral, and also possible.
Even in the days of the Bible, our ancestors succeeded, with the means they had, to eliminate enemy leaders. Ehud Ben Gera liquidated the king of Moab, and leveraged the assassination for a crushing defeat of the Moabite army, which gave the people of Israel eighty years of security and quiet - eighty years of deterrence, in which our neighbors did not dare attack us.
The correct answer when an enemy poses a question mark about our very right to continue living is to reply in kind and place a question mark on his own right to do so. Today, with the sophisticated means we have developed to defend ourselves, Israel has the ability to reach enemy leaders directly, and to eliminate them with precision weapons.
This is true in Tehran, as it is in Gaza. Israel has the ability to convey a clear and sharp message to anyone who replaces the assassinated enemy leader, as well as to any other leader in the Middle East. The message is simple: Anyone who tries to destroy Israel, Israel will eliminate him personally.
When this becomes the price of “playing with fire” with Israel, the playing with fire will cease. When enemy leaders know that they themselves will be killed - and not just their soldiers and their citizens - they will no longer dare to try to hurt us.
Modern military technology, especially that of Israel, now allows for a revolution in the nature of war. It allows us “to eliminate the bastards who start wars,” as General Patton put it at the beginning of this chapter, and allows us to end and even prevent wars.
For decades, Israel has been talking about deterrence, and that does not always work. Eliminating the enemy leader will create real deterrence. Instead of killing thousands of enemy soldiers, causing enormous destruction, and also harming innocents, it is possible, necessary and the most moral to kill the criminal - the “head of the snake” who is causing the war. Maybe we will not have a “peace agreement” or “eat hummus in Damascus” or Tehran, but we will enjoy peace and security.
US Military “Aid” and its Price
Due to the constant strengthening of the Israeli economy, coupled with the decline in the value of the US dollar, the annual US aid, which many Israelis are accustomed to thinking of as “essential for our existence,” was equal in 2014 to only one percent (1.0%) of Israel’s GDP. In other words, this is an amount that Israel can certainly manage without.
In the War of Independence, Israel fought under the ban on the sale of American weapons. Until the Six-Day War there was virtually no American aid and weapons. The close ties and the Americanization of the IDF were created only after the overwhelming victory of the IDF in the Six-Day War, which changed Israel’s strategic position and made the investment worthwhile for the Americans.
Since then we mostly lose. With the perspective of fifty years of Americanization of the IDF, the cost/benefit calculation raises the question of the benefit of the process. Already in the Yom Kippur War, shortly after the start of the process, the American weaponry became a means of pressure that prevented Israel from achieving the fruits of complete victory, after the IDF encircled and was about to destroy half of the Egyptian army (the Third Army).
The Lavi aircraft project, which was canceled when the plane was already flying, the Falcon control plane project, American involvement in the funding of Israeli military research and development, restrictions on the IDF’s use of American weapons, the restriction of Israeli arms exports and interference in the Israeli decision-making process –have all become millstones around the neck of the Israeli security establishment. We do receive a “gift,” but its true price, in money, freedom of military action, innovation, and freedom of thought, and ultimately in casualties, is far greater.
The American arms industry does not supply its products only to Israel. It sells much more to the Arab countries around us and the rest of the world. Only about a sixth of the American weapons coming to the Middle East come to Israel. If Israel could have the United States no longer supply arms to the Middle East, neither to us nor to our neighbors, it would be the greatest help the United States could give us.
Israel is a special client, whose choice of a weapon system attests to its quality. All the armies of the world want what we have, and therefore the American interest in supplying arms to Israel is both economic and marketing-savvy. But the American interest in selling arms to Israel is much greater. The Americans know that what we can not buy from them, we will develop ourselves, at a higher quality, and at a lower cost, thus creating a process that will put Israel at the head of the development of military technology in another area and compete with the American military -industry.
Thus, the Americans have a clear interest in creating an Israeli dependence on American arms and funding - and not only from the economic point of view. Israel has the opposite interest. Israel must diversify its sources of weapons, in particular by preferring weapons of Israeli development, which are also best suited to the unique needs of the IDF.
American “aid” to Israel is now an American interest, not an Israeli one. This is unhealthy money, a method that creates military and political dependence, harms security, damages the economy, and encourages corruption.
Click here for Appendix: Purchase of the F35