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Israel's Prolonged War against Terror: From Executive Domination to Executive-Legislative Dialogue

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Terrorism and anti-terrorist policies are not recent phenomena in Israel. The state's foundation was followed by six decades of terrorist attacks, and the responses of successive governments and the Knesset have evolved over time. Legislative oversight of the executive's anti-terrorist policies was essentially non-existent until the 1980s, almost half Israel's history. Since then, MKs have enhanced their institution's oversight capabilities, exhibiting greater effectiveness and accountability. The evidence of Israel's experience provided by this article suggests that the legislature will, in time, assert oversight powers in a protracted, low-intensity conflict. Legislative assertiveness, however, is necessarily a slow and developing process, and does not lead inevitably to a balance of power between the executive and legislature. The executive may remain dominant, but the Israeli case demonstrates that with time oversight empowerment of the legislature is possible, even in the realm of combating terrorism. The article also demonstrates the impact of other institutions, notably the judicial branch, and stresses that in any democracy engaged in a war of attrition the influence of the public cannot be ignored.
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Keywords: Israel; Knesset; accountability; anti-terrorist legislation; emergency regulations; oversight

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Israel Democracy Institute's project on Legislative Oversight of the Executive Branch in Israel, 2: Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,

Publication date: 2009-06-01

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