The Military-Industrial Complex in Israel: by Dr Yoram Peri and Amnon Neubach, International Centre for Peace in the Middle East.
Israeli Society and its Defence Establishment: The Social and Political Impact of a Protracted Violent Conflict. Ed. Moshe Lissak-Frank Cass. £18.
SIPR I Yearbook 1984: World Armaments and Disarmament, Taylor and Francis.
“What effect, for example, do the country’s arms exports have on its international relations and foreign policy? Is there a danger that the power and vested interests of the military-industrial complex might affect an Israeli peace policy? Does effective machinery exist for public supervision of the military-industrial complex? And, naturally, we cannot but raise questions relating to culture and morality. The Jewish people, which defined itself as the People of the Book, is rapidly becoming the People of the Sword. Is this an inevitable, necessary development? And what is its social price?”
These questions — sad and honest questions — are raised by Yoram Peri and Amnon Neubach in an interim report to the Tel Aviv based International Centre for Peace. The rapid development of the military-industrial complex in Israel since 1967 under both Labour and Likud has undoubtedly been a source of national confidence. The ability through independent action to cope with intransigent enemies by utilising domestically manufactured weapons is, of course, all important. However, Dr Alex Mintz, a political scientist at the Hebrew University, draws attention to the more unseemly side of the complex, namely the mushrooming export trade, in the series of essays edited by Professor Lissak.
Dr Mintz points out that Israel’s ratio of defence exports to total exports is the highest in the world. Its financial value is one billion dollars per annum and it accounts for 25 per cent of all exports. Indeed, foreign policy considerations in determining which countries to sell to are thus weakened by important commercial motivations.
The ethical problems which arise strike at the very core of Zionism and indeed the very Jewishness of the society established in the Jewish State.
The SIPRI yearbook, for example, states that Israel exports arms to Khomeini’s medieval republic where Jews are considered something less than demonic infidels. In doing so, Israel’s bedfellows include Libya, Syria, both Koreas and South Africa.
No doubt, someone can concoct sound economic and political reasons for this. Since 1975, Israel has also become a major supplier of arms to many dictatorial regimes in Central America — many of whom have the most terrible human rights records and have caused the deaths of thousands. In Israel and the diaspora, such developments have caused profound disquiet amongst many who still retain the vision of Israel as a Jewish state and not simply a state of Jews.
Cuts in the defence budget, even if necessary, would cause large-scale unemployment. The military-industrial complex thus has a vested interest in foreign policy decisions. In 1975, the possibility of cutting back production of the Kfir fighter and the Westward executive jet brought forth threats of bringing the workers onto the streets. Dr Mintz produces a number of solutions.
(1) encouraging the partial transition of defence industries to civilian production, leading to diversification and consequently reducing industrial dependence on defence production; (2) establishing cooling off periods for the transition of senior officers to key positions in other components of the complex and determining policies regarding contacts between senior reserve officers employed by the defence industries and the IDF; (3) establishing clear criteria based upon national ethical-social considerations — even at the expense of economic ones — regarding Israel’s arms exports policy and the transfer of most defence export administration to the Foreign Ministry; (4) essential reliance upon the IDF — rather than upon foreign orders — in decisions concerning weapons manufacture, ensuring that production suits IDF operative needs and national security demands; (5) gradual reduction of the IDF, absolute monopoly over the defence budget and over appointments to other arms of the complex.
Clearly such suggestions are eminently sensible. Whether there are politicians from either of the two main parties who possess the insight and willpower to implement them is another question. If not, in the words – of Dr Mintz, “the complex/monster may rise up against its creator.”
Undoubtedly the most controversial essay in this series belongs to Professor Dan Horowitz on the new patterns of strategic thinking and civilian-military relations that arose during the Lebanese war in 1982. He notes that significant sectors of the Israeli public were found to be unwilling to accord exclusive right of determining “when and why Israel goes to war” to the Government and its advisers in the civilian and military defence establishments. The Israeli public challenged the credibility of the defence establishment. It was irritated at the numerous manifestations of information manipulation.
Professor Horowitz writes that with the appointment of the Kahan commission “the system of checks and balances functioning within Israeli society regained its capacity to counterweight the excess power of the national security system and the establishment guiding it.”
However, as the last election showed, this is not the end of the matter. The forces responsible for that excess in 1982 are as potent and irrational today, if not more so.
Jewish Chronicle 15 March 1985