Memo to Winograd: Overhaul Foreign Policy in National Security Strategy

A Reut Institute paper submitted to the Winograd Committee calls for the re-evaluation of Israel's national security strategy and the allocation of resources for foreign policy and foreign service.
The Winograd Committee's interim report included conclusions and recommendations regarding the design and management of Israel's foreign policy on the National Security level. This memorandum deals with the implications of these conclusions and recommendations.

This memorandum is based on conversations and interviews with over twenty people who have held important positions in Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (hereinafter MFA) in recent years. It has been submitted to the Prime Minister (hereinafter PM), Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, Speaker of the Knesset, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and to the Winograd Committee before the publication of its final report.

The Reut Institute identifies a trend of a developing political-diplomatic threat of existential significance concurrent to the existing existential military-security threat. The factors accelerating this trend crystallized before the Second Lebanon War and demonstrated their force during the fighting. As a result, the importance of Israel's foreign policy and the MFA as a central branch of the State has increased.

The Winograd Committee's interim report effectively established the requirement of the PM to consult with the MFA on issues pertaining to national security as a way to increase the weight of political and diplomatic considerations on a national level. The Report 'upgrades' the status of the MFA thus indicating the growing importance of the political - diplomatic dimension.

These recommendations were formulated despite the fact that the management of foreign policy and the role of the MFA during the Second Lebanon War remained outside the focus of the Committee's interim report. Nonetheless, the Winograd Committee is likely to deal with these issues in its final report.

This document by the Reut Institute deals with Israel's foreign policy at the national security level. Its conclusions include:

  1. There is no clear national security strategy that deals with the political - diplomatic challenges and thus no basis for the distribution of resources between the defense establishment and other bodies dealing with foreign policy.

  2. Israel has no foreign policy on major issues and therefore no body that is managing them - There are a large number of bodies dealing with major issues of foreign policy without being required to report to the PM, MFA or any other 'integrator.'

  3. The MFA has no operation strategy that harnesses the unique added value of foreign-service and the MFA for the benefit of national security.

  4. The MFA does not train its personnel for national security positions nor determine an education, experience or qualification threshold as a condition for holding these positions.

In light of the above, the Reut Institute concludes that the challenges facing Israel require an overhaul of Israel's foreign policy and the MFA. Without such overhaul, the ability of the MFA to represent foreign policy considerations in national security discussions will continue to be restricted, and the State of Israel will have difficulty dealing with the challenges it is currently facing.

Therefore, the Reut Institute suggests the following recommendations.

  1. Re-evaluating the allocation of resources for national security - A committee should be established to re-define the purpose and aims of foreign policy and the MFA and evaluate the allocation of resources relative to the Defense Ministry's budget in light of regional and international trends strategically affecting Israel.

  2. Defining the 'Core Issues' of foreign policy - The Government should be responsible for determining a list of foreign policy 'core issues.' This list should be updated annually.

  3. The Government will assign an 'integrative body' for each of the core issues. The MFA will have residual responsibility - The integrative body will present Israel's policies for the issue under its responsibility for approval by the PM or a committee of relevant ministers. The MFA will be required to present its policies on each of the core issues and will have residual responsibility.

  4. The MFA will formulate an operating strategy to utilize its added value in national security.

  5. The MFA will set certain preconditions for appointments to its strategic departments - The MFA will set an education, experience, qualification and knowledge threshold for appointments to strategic departments within the organization.

Expanding Knesset supervision - The Reut Institute calls on the Knesset Speaker and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to expand parliamentary supervision over foreign policy and the MFA and to ground it in the annual agendas of different Knesset committees.

For the full document click here.