Lawfare as a Means of Defining Military Doctrine in the 21st Century, IDF as an example to the CDF in the Wake of the ITFY in the Hague 

 By dr. Peter Anthony Ercegovac

& Marinko Tomašić


Intervention as Policy and a Means of Ensuring the Security Paradigm

 Debate in Israel is still occurring. Nevertheless the question of military intervention upon foreign territory is not seen as aggression but as a means of aggressive defence. Hence any potential foreign criticism is rejected out of hand as it is realised that no one will intervene to protect Israel but the IDF itself. At the core of national security must be a continued awareness of real perceived threat from without the state.

The real perceived threats may take the form of extended policy from without aimed at destabilising Israeli state security via supporting groups whose sole objective is the destruction of the Israeli state; or an ideological openly hostile state who has reached a level of military technology that can produce a weapon that may physically destroy Israel. The former is shown in Iranian and Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas in Southern Lebanon and Palestine respectively, and the latter in Iran’s potentiality to create a nuclear weapon.

In such cases no international criticism concerning the lack of respect for the sovereignty of a foreign state, nor potential intrusion upon civil rights, is taken seriously as the sanctity of Israeli statehood is placed foremost above all other concerns.

As Ron Tira (2010b, pp.45-46) noted, as in the case of Iran’s potential nuclear proliferation, what the concerns for the IDF are: recognition of the actors, threats and their interests; what does a nuclear Iran mean for Israel; how to engage this threat in the short and long term; can intervening militarily halt the production of warheads; how can Israel influence the geopolitical strategy of the region after such preventative actions; can the international community be utilised to negate action in the first place; will the attack ensure successful completion of state policy, and will the USA/allies give the green light. Thus establishing who and what are the ‘actors’, ‘alternatives’, ‘time frames’, ‘achievable objectives’, ‘subsequent trends’, ‘necessity’, ‘measures of success’ and ‘standpoint of allies’ (ibid.) is the duty of the IDF and Knesset. In no ways does the establishing of such aggressive defensive tactics run contrary to the main goal of the IDF, which is the protection of all costs of the Jewish nation, no matter what the pressures from the international community[1]. If the international community is displeased then it is the job of diplomacy not to appease and placate them rather it must bring them around to see the Israeli standpoint, and if this cannot be done then draw the diplomatic line, which clearly states to other nations accept it or not we will do this anyway.

One of the most controversial forms of intervention has been the reintroduction of targeted killings since 2000. For the international community, Iran and the Arab League these are clear-cut assassinations. For the IDF and security community the terms “interceptions” or “targeted thwartings” are preferred as they are viewed as legitimate counter-terrorism measures. No matter terminology is used it is clear that the IDF feels such measures are justified if the end goal is decreasing terrorism and securing the Israeli state.

These targeted killings have been part of Hagan, Mossad and IDF duties since 1948. From the 1950s mail bomb killings of two Egyptian agents who ran Fadayeen and the families of German missile scientists working for Egypt through to General Sharon’s anti-terror detachments that killed 104 and captured 742 Palestinian militants from 1971 “interceptions” have been legitimate tools of the IDF of eliminating enemies of Israel (David, 2002, p. 3). In more recent times the 1988 killing of Abu Jihad, Arafat’s number two, 1996 assassination of Hamas’ Yahya Ayyash, and the 2001 elmiination of Abu Ali Mustafa and Mustafa Zibri, the head and general secretary of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine respectively, as well as the 2002 liquidating of Hamas leader Sheik Salah Shehada, suggests little has changed.

Steven David (2002, p.14) points out in such a situation Israel places Israeli and Jewish Biblical Law before that of the international community[2] and the UN[3]. Citing Exodus 22:1 which is known in Judaic scriptures as the Rodef Injunction the IDF is seen as the institution designed to stop those coming to kill you by killing them. Though Basic Law has no capital punishment of an Israeli or non-Israeli citizen the Judge Advocate General of the IDF, with the support of the Israeli High Court, is permitted to suspend such law if three conditions are met: firstly, the target must ignore appeals to be arrested; secondly, that the IDF could not arrest them; and thirdly, the killing must be done as an act of prevention not revenge. If they fulfill these requirements then any extra-state activity undertaken by the IDF has ultimate support from the Israeli state in the face of the international community. Where would our generals be today if our High Court acted in a similar way?

Another question which is pertinent to the Croatian situation is that when dealing with their main enemy Israel, in this case Palestine, does not live in a black and white world, rather in shades. The reality is that international law defines conflict in terms of peace and war, in the Palestinian situation there is a question whether by legal definition whether or not Israel can be at war with terrorist groups. Hence many Israeli IDF analysts may ask whether or not the rules of engagement apply when no official war has been declared. Consequently international criticism of Israel and the IDF on whether or not they apply the rules of warfare is superfluous.


 To come full circle in our argument we feel that in more ways than one that the Israeli state vis-à-vis her relationship with the IDF provides the Croatian state the best example on how the army may support the state and vice versa when it comes to ensuring national security. As an autonomous yet societally porous entity the IDF has successfully created a political- military alliance within the state that has ensured its ability to react robustly toward any threat to the Israeli nation-state from without. In return for border security the conjunctions of will between the Parliament and High Court have provided the legal background to ensure that all IDF members are secure in the knowledge that their actions shall be lauded rather than prosecuted. Add to this the role of diplomacy as a tool of governance to persuade the international community that Israel will react in ways that places the security of the Israeli citizen first no matter what international opinion may say then one can see where the elites of Croatia have let the CDF down. But in the main this has occurred in Croatia due to the overt politicisation of what the CDF’s role should be from politicians themselves who seek to aspouse political agendii at the expense of sensible national security policy. It would be naïve to believe that this scenario does not exist in Croatia’s case post Operation Storm in 1995. Any serious defence force would also recognise this and solidify this knowledge within its raison d’etre or even established doctrine.  Unfortunately, upon the Croatian political scene, the enemies of the late President Tuđman see this, and have moved to ensure that the army as an institution of national unity may never be able to sufficiently recover to play its rightful role as guarantor of Croatian sovereignty.


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Ercegovac & Tomašić_ Tomorrow Jerusalem


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[1] The fact that many intel channels attributed the 2007 attacks upon Syrian “nuclear” facilities to Israel is suggestive that such military implementation of national policy is of such importance that it is considered not for public consumption.

[2]The  Convention for the Prevention and Repression of Terrorism 1937.

[3] The New York Convention for the Prevention and Repression of Terrorism 1973.

Dobrodošli na web stranicu Hrvatske družbe povjesničara Dr. Rudolf Horvat