Center for Security and Democracy

The Center for Security and Democracy addresses what is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the State of Israel: how to preserve a free society under conditions of permanent siege.  Its mission is to assist decision-makers to craft a proper balance between competing values: the imperative of preserving Israel's national security on the one hand, and the need to protect human rights and civil liberties on the other. The center works on questions of national security and the law, civil-military relations, counterterrorism policy and Israel's international legitimacy in the struggle against terrorism.

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    Prof. Suzie Navot

    Vice President, Research

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    Suzie Navot is a full professor of constitutional and parliamentary law and, prior to her appointment, was a member of the faculty of the Striks School of Law at the College of Management Academic Studies. She earned a bachelor's degree in law from Tel Aviv University, an M.A in public policy from the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tel Aviv University and holds a doctorate in law from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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    Dr. Eran Shamir-Borer


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    Dr. Eran Shamir-Borer serves as the Director of the Center for National Security and Democracy since September 2022.

    Prior, Eran served for over 20 years in various positions in the International Law Department of the Military Advocate General's Corps in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), including as the head of the department, and retired at the rank of Colonel.

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    Prof. Amichai Cohen

    Head, The Amnon Lipkin-Shahak Program on National Security and the Law; Senior Fellow

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    Professor Amichai Cohen is a member of the Faculty of Law at Ono Academic College. He earned his LL.B. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his LL.M. and LL.D. from Yale Law School at Yale University.

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    Prof. Yuval Shany

    Senior Fellow

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    Among other things, he has researched questions of right to equality, security detention, interrogation techniques, on-line surveillance and content moderation, military investigations, proportionality in the application of force, jurisdiction of international criminal tribunals and counterterrorism.

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    Dr. Yael Litmanovitz

    Senior Researcher

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    Dr. Yael Litmanovitz holds an MSc and a doctorate from the University of Oxford.  Her thesis developed the evidence-base for police training in democratic societies. She worked with Israeli Border Police to design and trial a training intervention on procedurally just policing of protests.

    Since 2008 she has collaborated with and studied police organizations in Israel and abroad, focusing on issues of police reform, police training, fair and equitable policing, and evidence-based policing. Her papers have been published in leading journals.

    She is also a Teaching Fellow at Centre for Criminology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, teaching policing-related undergraduate courses as part of the Israel Police academicization program.

    Prior to joining IDI, Dr. Litmanovitz was a Researcher at the Myer-JDC Brookdale Institute, where she worked with the Arab Society Research Group, leading the comprehensive evaluation of the five-year socio-economic development plan for the Bedouin population.

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    Dr. Asaf Malchi

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    Dr. Asaf Malchi is a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, in the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel program. His research focuses on current social and economic trends  in the community, in the areas of employment,  higher education, military and Civilian  National Service, and more. These studies provide important input to  decision makers in crafting policy on the ultra-Orthodox.

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    Adv. Mirit Sharabi

    Research Assistant

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    Adv. Mirit Sharabi holds a bachelor's degree in law from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a master's degree (cum laude) in international dispute settlement and arbitration from Leiden University. Before she started working at the IDI, Mirit worked at the Israeli Embassy to the Netherlands, focusing on international law and the various international courts and organizations in The Hague. She also worked at the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (International Law) in the Israeli Ministry of Justice, in the fields of international economic law and international technology law. She previously conducted research in the fields of space law, cyber law and privacy law.

Attempts by the Prime Minister to influence the Chief Censor may indicate a concerning erosion of the Military Censor’s independence and professionalism. Clearly, state secrets must be protected, especially during war, but there are better ways for this to be accomplished, more suited to a democratic state.

Appeals to the HCJ to intervene in decisions relating to the release of prisoners are fairly common, but the Court has repeatedly rejected these appeals, noting that on issues of national defense and diplomacy, the bounds for judicial oversight are particularly narrow. 

Israel’s decision-making in the current conflict must be understood in the context of its government’s complex institutional structure related to war.

The state has a moral and ethical duty of the highest order to act as quickly as possible to free and return all the hostages and the missing. But what is the legal mechanism that should be applied when agreeing deals to secure their release which also involve freeing Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons?

The paradigm of reliance on technology for our security seems to have led us to a point in which infinite data points and technological tools are at our disposal failed to produce a response. It is of course essential to continue investing in technological superiority, but this needs to be done with a clearer head.

The heads of the established traditional Haredi yeshivot have instructed their institutions to continue studies as normal during the current state of emergency, in accordance with the belief in the power of Torah study to protect the people of Israel. By contrast, the messages heard from various other rabbis reflect an understanding of changing needs and offer a blueprint for a new leadership vision.

The ongoing war highlights the transformation of technology giants, once American-based corporations, into international entities. Within the Western aid package to Israel, it is imperative to enforce global accountability upon these companies

Israel's new firearms regulations now allow hundreds of thousands of citizens to carry handguns, without the necessary checks or oversight. They have been passed too rapidly during the current emergency, without enough thought about the dangerous consequences of dramatically expanding eligibility for a handgun license.

International law does not forbid the evacuation of residents to the southern Gaza Strip; on the contrary, it would appear to demand of Israel that it warns residents and encourages them to leave.

Despite being at war, more Israelis are optimistic about the future of the country than earlier this year, yet most Israelis (64%) fear for their physical safety or that of their immediate family members.

The minister of national security declared a civil emergency event on October 7th, the first time in Israel's history such an ordinance was used. What is the difference between a "special home front situation" and a "civil emergency?"

Is the operation in Gaza a war, who is authorized declare war and what is the role of the cabinet and the government after war is declared?

The hurt felt by the broad section of the Israeli public that is moderately traditional may have serious consequences for the struggle against the government’s judicial overhaul.

While technology cannot eliminate uncertainty or surprise, it can help decision-makers think about the future.

One of the important lessons learned from the Yom Kippur War was that the authority of government ministers to decide on security-related matters must be strengthened; However, even after five decades, the proper balance between the authority of the prime minister and the members of the security cabinet has not yet been properly regulated.

A volunteer civilian army is possible only when a shared core of social values exists among citizens. But deepening social and political tensions has threatened this system.

The Israeli governing coalition is now “only” trying to strip the Supreme Court of its power to conduct reasonableness review of cabinet decisions.

Hezbollah has established armed outposts beyond the “Blue Line” that separates Lebanon from Israel. So far, Israel has chosen diplomatic recourse, which is wiser.

The latest military action in the Gaza Strip was authorized only by the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, without the prior approval of the Security Cabinet. Israeli decision-makers must ask themselves if this is really the way matters of war and peace should be decided in a democracy.

The ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Conscription bill, if passed into law, would in effect, allow Haredi men to totally avoid military service.

The proposed government resolution fails to explain why a National Guard is needed, how to ensure that it does not target minority groups unjustifiably, and what the division of labor will be with the police. It is also liable to result in the increased militarization of law enforcement in Israel, which could lead to disproportionate infringement of human rights.

The second article in this series describes in depth how the Supreme Court used its authority, why it encountered a backlash, and what current proposals to limit the power of the Court to exercise judicial review over Knesset legislation look like.

Political discontent with the power relationship between the judiciary and the political branches has been percolating since the 1990s, often in connection with criminal proceedings against senior politicians. Prof. Amichai Cohen and Dr. Yuval Shany provide context for the ongoing debate concerning recent legal developments in Israel, so that outside observers can follow them more closely.

Negating the plans of the other camp is not enough. The public enthusiasm present a rare opportunity, to enlist public support for strengthening and entrenching Israel’s liberal democratic identity.

Jack Omer-Jackman, Research Associate at BICOM speaks to Professor Amichai Cohen on the proposed reforms, how Israel’s system compares internationally and what to expect next. Cohen also comments on the distinction between populist and conservative potential reforms, and on the relationship between the judiciary and security policy.

The debate surrounding the Override Clause should really focus on the disproportionate power of the Knesset and not on the power of the Supreme Court. All other democracies have structural mechanisms that limit the concentration of power in the hands of one institutions - we must create such a mechanism in Israel as well.

The government's aim to apply sovereignty in the territories and soften the Supreme Court may harm Israel's global standing

The bill to amend the Police Ordinance has been compared to practices in other countries - however it ignores the fact that other countries have in place procedures that guarantee the operational independence of the police when it implements the policies laid down to guide its actions


Prof. Amichai Cohen, Senior Fellow at IDI, the Center for Security and Democracy, provides an in-depth historical overview of Israel's constitutional crisis and the background to the currently proposed judicial review reforms, particularly, the "override clause".

Ahead of the annual 2022 National Security and Democracy IDI published a special survey to examine the views of Jewish Israeli on a series of issues relating to their relationship with the IDF and the country’s security challenges. The survey found that while there is wide support for opening the ranks to women in combat units and a large plurality would prefer that their children serve in the IDF’s technological units.

Operation Breaking Dawn was brief and successful, nevertheless the decision-making process for matters of national security must be reformed to deal also with worst-case scenarios

The bill to extend the regulations that apply Israeli law to Israelis living in Judea and Samaria failed to pass the preliminary Knesset plenum vote on Monday. Dr. Libman explains the law's history as well as the consequences of failing to pass it by the end of June 2022.

The model underlying the IDF’s success is in grave danger -  we must have the courage to change its outdated model of service

The expiration of the Judea and Samaria Law will have dramatic consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians. Is there a way to bypass this expiration? Will Israelis residing in the territories be able to vote in the elections? What else is at risk?

The bill to extend the validity of regulations that apply Israeli law to Israelis living in Judea and Samaria failed to pass the preliminary Knesset plenum vote Monday - Dr. Libman explains the law's history and its implications

A broader public debate over the principle of equality is current in Israel and is one of the fundamental rights in a democracy - it should then be clear that the IDF must ensure gender equality - it is possible and must be done. 

Harsh measures often have unintended consequences – and, when it comes to collective punishment, they also have troubling moral implications

The IDF, like every other state institution in Israel, is obligated to the principle of equality – meaning that any woman who is capable of doing so must be permitted to serve in elite combat units



Over the years and especially in recent decades, the concept of gender equality has also become relevant to the discussion of military service, and more and more roles have been opened up to women serving in the IDF. Dr. Idit Shafran Gittleman presents an overview of women in the IDF since its establishment.

The decline in public trust in the IDF is troubling – especially among youngers Israelis who will soon fill the IDF’s ranks. What can be done to reverse this trend?

Granting the executive broad authority to target entities and individuals on the basis of secret evidence is problematic and the process must be reformed

Even if we accept the argument that lowering the exemption age exacerbates existing discrimination, we should still assess the proportionality of this harm. Basic rights such as equality are not absolute, and are sometimes subject to restrictions in the face of a pressing public interest.

False quick-spreading claims blamed an IDF soldier's death on overly stringent rules of engagement. What took the military so long to set the record straight?

With international institutions once again a cornerstone of US foreign policy, Israel will have to adjust accordingly

The Knesset recently failed to pass an extension of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law was adopted in 2003 as a temporary order. Israel's government must now reconsider whether there is indeed a security justification for the sweeping provisions that have been in place until now, and whether there are alternatives that can minimize the potential violation of human rights resulting from the original law.

IDI experts answer questions on the balance of powers at the Security Council, whether any dramatic resolutions can be expected, and the extent to which the debate and international pressure effect the IDF.

Despite the significant changes resulting from the expansion of women’s service in IDF units, gender still remains a criterion for screening the assignments of military personnel in 2021

The ICC's ruling to allow the possibility of an investigation into Israeli actions is only the start of a process that is likely to go on for many years. What are the next steps and what are the possible implications for Israel?

The handwriting was on the wall. Since the founding of the State, rabbis have served as middlemen between the government and the ultra-Orthodox. We must acknowledge that this approach has failed miserably.

The decision to call in the IDF is dealing a double blow to the country - it is both ineffective and is damaging the public’s trust in the IDF


This past year has been has been like no other in our history and the months ahead will be every bit as challenging. Nevertheless, we at IDI are confident in the future of Israel as we wish our friends around the world a safe, healthy and sweet new year.

Elections are an attempt, not always successful, to translate the voters’ wishes into a well-functioning and representative government - however no democracy anywhere in the world makes do with elections to a single institution as the only means for implementing democracy

What are the possible human rights implications of annexing parts of the West Bank? In these experts from a more detailed analysis in Hebrew, IDI  detail the rights that might be violated if the plan moves forward.

IDI experts held today an online briefing focusing on potential plans by Israel's government to apply sovereignty in areas of the West Bank as part of the U.S’ ‘Deal of the Century’

A key component of US President Trump's 'Peace to Prosperity' plan is the clause allowing Israel to annex parts of the West Bank. What do Israelis and Palestinians say about this plan and what would it look like on the ground? Prof. Amichai Cohen has all the answers in this explainer

Israeli's Supreme Court ruling on the Regularization Law touches on the heart of the legal battle inherent in the power struggle between settlers and Palestinians.

After three contentious election campaigns Israel's new government has been sworn in. IDI's experts weigh-in with their recommendations on the most important issues on the agenda. Prof. Amichai Cohen writes about the matters that should be at the top of the agenda to improve Israel's security and resilience.

The “Deal of the Century” and Human Rights: An overview of territorial exchanges and the status of the Palestinians in the annexed Areas 

On January 21st, the ICC’s pre-trial court decided to reject the prosecutor’s request to allow her to submit a petition - on technical grounds. So what's next?

What are the legal barriers standing in the way of the current government implementing the U.S.'s “Deal of the Century” peace plan?

The last decade has seen the most meaningful changes in gender equality and women’s service in the IDF since the State was established.

Everything you wanted to know about the International Criminal Court in The Hague and its decision to open an investigation against Israel for war crimes

There is a vagueness about the authority to make fateful decisions for the country, including what even counts as war.

What really lies behind the most recent rabbinical directive on modesty in the IDF - and how does it pits religious soldiers against IDF's core values to the extent of risking insubordination. 

Supporters and opponents argue the pros and cons of such a deal but instead of asking whether a mutual defense treaty would be good or bad for Israel, it would be better to focus on the specific elements of such a treaty.


Creating a gender-equal military is a complicated task, but the IDF must not forget its responsibility, nevertheless many Israeli soldiers have not been trained on gender equality says Idit Shafran Gittleman.

A controversial decision delivered by the Supreme Court on May 2 could be an important test case for its ability to withstand political attacks, which call to curb the court’s authority and power

Against the backdrop of the armed conflict between Israel and the Hamas - is limiting the space available for fishing near Gaza's shores collective punishment?

Another Election? It Has its Pluses for the Public and for Democracy. Voters got to see how parties behaved after elections, and parties now know the real risk of a hardline negotiation stance.

Israeli military officers are less tolerant of higher civilian casualties than their American counterparts.

The report and its conclusions, regardless of whether or not they will be acceptable to the State of Israel, once again highlight the importance of the rule of law, and bring to the fore the need for in-depth investigations of events which might be construed as in violation of international law

In its fight against terrorism, Israel has often been proud of its ability to effectively fight terrorism, while remaining faithful to democratic principles. House demolitions were always considered a necessary evil, which could be resorted to in very exceptional circumstances - are we now facing populist trends that runs contrary to the traditional ethos of subjecting counterterrorism policies to rule-of-law constraints.


For Israel, coping with the situation in the Gaza Strip is far from simple. The way the situation is handled has security, economic, humanitarian, and political implications. Therefore leadership must act and speak responsibly - this is not always the case.

Guaranteeing an independent Supreme Court. Integrating the Ultra-Orthodox into the IDF. Boosting participation of Arab women in the workforce. Improving the ease of doing business in Israel. These are some of the challenges facing IDI’s new cadre of program and center directors.

Initial observations on Israeli's Military Advocate General's decision to conclude investigation into 'Black Friday'.


Now is the time to rise above petty politics and pass a draft law that will uphold the principle of civic equality in Israel.


"Even a bit more justice than now is better" said Liron Libman in an interview on administrative detention.

The Lod district court decision illustrates the possible dangers to criminal defendant’s human rights though the expanding defense of necessity and the lack of separation between the preventive and criminal phases of the investigation.

IDI puts forth analysis of why the proposed conscription plan for the ultra-Orthodox is problematic and offers an alternative approach

Yohanan Plesner discusses with Tipping Point the "People's Army". Can a compromise be reached and is "sharing the burden" of military service a realistic goal? 

While collective harm may be justified in some circumstances, collective punishment should never be allowed: one person’s rights should not be taken hostage to influence the behavior of others.

Professor Yuval Shany and Professor Amichai Cohen discuss the pivotal role of the IDF in Israeli life - past and present. 

Israel’s supporters, who have the nation’s best interests at heart, should resist the urge to engage in partisan smear campaigns that attempt to tarnish the reputations of patriots who are on the frontlines of the struggle for Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish and democratic state. We have enough enemies on our borders.

Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute cautions that the Ministry of Defense’s proposed draft bill “endangers IDF’s model of service as a “People's Army” based on the principle of mandatory service for all

The Supreme Court of Israel recently dismissed a petition against the rules of engagement governing use of force by the Israeli security forces in the violent clashes in Gaza

Following the approval of the “Cabinet Law,” allowing the government to delegate its authority to declare war to the National Security Cabinet, IDI Senior Professor Prof. Amichai Cohen, and expert on national security law, contends that the bill addresses a critical issue but has been passed too hastily


The Democracy Pavilion, a unique multi-media experience, in full 360 degree technology, showcasing the values embedded in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, is open to the public.

Despite the transformation of Israeli society, the IDF’s model of service has not changed. Military service continues to be a rite of passage for young Israelis and the IDF retains its status as the most trusted institution in Israel. Prof. Yuval Shany, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Orna Barbivai and Prof. Amichai Cohen sit down to discuss the challenges facing the IDF and Israeli society in a changing security environment.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day we should devote some thought to the impact the IDF chief of staff's remarks on feminism have on young women who are about to be drafted

The state of Israel has also been grappling in recent years with an intense controversy over the service of women in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which recently came to a boiling point with the amendment of the “Joint Service Order,” which sets out guidelines for women’s military service alongside Orthodox men

It’s time for the people’s army to listen to the voice of the people, and not just to the voice of extremists.

A recent Knesset bill that would introduce the death sentence for terror-related murder in Israel has broken the decades of relative silence on the matter. 

In the US and more recently in Israel there is public discussion over the principled issues of the balance between the different branches of government in matters of national security and the proper mechanism to create accountability in these matters are universal. 

The Israeli High Court of Justice’s Dec. 12 decision in Abu Ghosh v. Attorney-General provides a good opportunity to reexamine the implementation of the prohibition against torture in Israeli law almost twenty years after the court’s landmark 1999 judgment in Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, which outlawed torture.


Despite the verdict, the real story in the Azaria affair is the moral, not the legal, issue, and this debate is alive and well.

In a poignant op-ed, published by the Jewish Journal, Dr. Idit Shafran Gittleman confronts the issue of the price a country should pay to bring home its captive soldiers, including those who have been declared dead.

Israel's security agencies have sweeping surveillance powers, but are subjected to few checks and balances.

Israel has been in a state of emergency since 1948. But the nature of the threat has changed over-time—from full-scale military invasions to isolated airplane hijackings, from suicide bombings to missile attacks, and most recently, cyber and lone wolf terrorism.
These ever-evolving threats necessitate new responses and strategies.

It is almost certain that readers of this article will not recognize the name of this man, the terrorist who caused more damage to Israel’s security than any other attacker in recent years. His name is Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, from Hebron.

While there is no way to know whether the military picture of the recent Gaza war would have been different had members of the security cabinet been kept abreast of the tunnel threat, there can be no doubt that what occurred was a failure of Israel’s democracy.

Even before the conclusion of the Elor Azaria trial, there were calls for the 'Hebron Shooter' to be pardoned. Under such circumstances, what does a pardon entail and how can an IDF soldier who had been sentenced in a military court of law be granted one?

The primary significance of Resolution 2334 is that it strengthens other initiatives whose purpose is to punish Israel, its leaders and businesses for their involvement in the settlement enterprise. 

Recent events surrounding the evacuation of the Israeli settlement of Amona have ignited a long-simmering debate within Israeli society regarding the construction of a small portion of settlements on privately-owned Palestinian land in Judea and Samaria.

As the IDF's military court handed down its verdict in the case of Elor Azaria, the soldier accused by the military prosecutor of shooting and killing a terrorist who no longer constituted a clear and present danger, it is an appropriate moment to recall the recent experience of another soldier in another army.

Israel's senior political leaders are playing with fire when they publicly justify violating the rules of war and ethical conduct. Troublingly, a majority of the Israeli Jewish public agrees.

In the last decade, no member of the IDF has been convicted of an offense as serious as that with which Azaria is charged.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced recently that Israel and Turkey had reached an agreement leading to reconciliation between the two countries – and the Knesset approved the deal. Now the question becomes: will the deal have the impact Israeli soldiers are hoping for? Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

IDI's Prof. Amichai Cohen explains why Israel had to launch a swift and effective investigation into the actions of the solider that shot a neutralized terrorist in Hebron. This article originally appeared on the Times of Israel

The Israeli High Court's claim that home demolitions need not be applied to Jews because they support terror less than Palestinians must be rejected. (This article was originally published by Haaretz.)

Times of Israel is holding a special online event to discuss the current judicial reforms under debate and their possible implications for Israeli democracy. The event will be live streamed here on IDI’s English website in addition to the Times of Israel website.

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  • English simultaneous translation
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  • Open to the public
  • Participation by invitation only
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What are the implications of each potential political solution for the territories, Judea and Samaria? How will Israel be affected in each scenario? What are the implications for democracy, security, Arabs and the settlers?

  • Participation by invitation only
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The Israel Democracy Institute and Ron Arad's colleagues from his piloting course cordially invite you to a symposium.

  • Open to the public
  • Hebrew

The “Security Matters” blog is a new platform run under the auspices of the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). It serves as an online forum for analyzing those issues that straddle the border between national security and democracy. IDI’s goal is to contribute to the public-academic discussion already taking place around issues of national security through diverse posts by writers who come at the issues from different vantage points, including law, ethics and sociology. Security Matters is edited by IDI researchers. However, it is open to the thoughts and opinions of writers within and without of the Institute.

We encourage other relevant thought leaders to contribute to and become a part of the discussion. Please note: The opinions published by Security Matters are those of the writers and only the writers.

They do not represent the institutes or organizations in which they work, the views of the blog editors or of IDI.