Moshe Lissak and Daniel Maman
Israel was born forty-five years ago and is still in the midst of violent clashes with Palestinians inside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and various groups of fundamentalists in Lebanon. Earlier in the history of the region, violent clashes between the Jewish community in Palestine and the local Arab population were a frequent phenomenon. Thus, quite early in the development of the Jewish community in Palestine, the political leadership had to be concerned with the proper relationship between civilians and the cadre of men of arms that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. Later, after the establishment of the state, the role and status of the growing defense establishment became a central issue in political life, especially in the wake of wars.
Over the years, the relationship between the civilian sectors and the defense establishment acquired a special configuration, some of whose attributes are common to other democratic countries and some of which are particular to the Israeli case.
The question of survival and the sense of living under constant siege could have led to the emergence of a military elite with its own distinct culture stressing symbols of power, heroism, sacrifice, order, and jingoistic nationalism--and with far-reaching political ambitions. This obvious path of development was not taken, but the adverse conditions under which the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) emerged left their marks on it.
One can notice these marks in many spheres, including education, the media, and economics. In this paper we would like to confine the discussion mainly to the political field. The main thesis is that, despite the extensive and repeated intervention by the IDF command in defense-related foreign-policy matters, the Israeli political system is characterized by a multiparty democracy and an active and critical public opinion. Nevertheless, key positions in the system are held by former senior officers, among them former chiefs of staff and members of