The Amnon Lipkin-Shahak Program on National Security and the Law

IDI’s National Security and Democracy program is named after former Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. The Program, founded with the help of the close friends and family of Israel's 15th Chief of Staff, is dedicated to helping Israel deal effectively with security threats while preserving the values of a free society. 

The Amnon Lipkin-Shahak Program on National Security and Democracy builds on the experience and expertise of IDI's Terrorism and Democracy Program, which devoted 12 years to analyzing the legal aspects of Israeli counter-terrorism. It is working to develop national defense policies that will guarantee Israel's security without impairing its democratic vitality. Today, in recognition of the fact that all aspects of warfare are becoming increasingly connected on the modern battlefield, the program focuses on the legal, strategic, media and diplomatic aspects of asymmetric conflict.

  • Default Image

    Prof. Amichai Cohen

    Head; Senior Fellow

    Read More

    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.

  • Default Image

    Prof. Yuval Shany

    Senior Fellow

    Read More

    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.

In this article, we wish to identify and discuss here some potential problems we identify in the part of the request pertaining to Netanyahu and Gallant, at least as it was presented in the Prosecutor’s short announcement and by the expert report supporting it. 

The proposed law ignores the dramatic change in Israel's security situation since October 7 and does not address the need for more combat soldiers, nor does it respect the burden on the populations that already serve.

From damage to scientific collaboration to cancellation of arms deals, arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials from the International Criminal Court in the Hague would pose a serious challenge to Israel

Response to the Government's Proposal for Haredi (non-) Conscription by Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, and Dr. Gilad Malach, Head of IDI's Ultra-Orthodox in Israel Program

The government wishes to amend the Military Service Law and Reserve Service Law due to the new security circumstances arising from the outbreak of the war in Gaza. While recognizing the immediate imperative to respond to IDF's personnel needs, we oppose these legislative proposals. 

IDI's Prof. Amichai Cohen answers a series of questions on international law and its dealings with the laws of war.

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.

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 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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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

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

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.


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.

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.

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. 

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

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

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. 


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.

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?

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.

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

Prof. Amichai Cohen argues that there is only one good way to prevent prosecution of Israeli soldiers abroad: Israeli authorities must conduct effective, independent, and genuine investigations in cases where there are suspicions of war crimes or other violations. This article was first published by Times of Israel.

In the aftermath of the Tel-Aviv terror attack, it is becoming increasingly clear that the current round of terror will not end soon. When there are casualties of attacks, not only do security issues arise, but so do medical issues – and these can be equally as complicated. This article originally appeared in Crescent City Jewish News. 

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.)

Is demolishing terrorists' homes an effective deterrent? Israel Democracy Institute research – based on previous work conducted by the security establishment  – has cast a doubt on its value. There was also a research report published in 2005 by a professional committee led by Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Udi Shani, which led to the cessation of house demolitions for three years.  

A society that is doomed to live forever by the sword cannot hope to be truly humanist and democratic. Originally published in the Jerusalem Report.

Submitted to the UN International Commission of Inquiry on February 11, 2015, this document details the role of lawyers within the Israeli Defense Forces in implementing and enforcing International Humanitarian Law within the IDF.

A discussion of the Palestinian Authority's declarations to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the changes that influenced the ICC prosecutor's decision to accept the PA's second declaration, and the conditions that must be fulfilled in order for the ICC to apply its jurisdiction to IDF actions or to the settlement enterprise.

In a Jerusalem Post op-ed, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer argues that by breaching their responsibility to be impartial, the  UN Human Rights Council and its commission for investigating alleged war crimes in Gaza are betraying international law, even if unintentionally.

What criteria must the caliphate of the Islamic State meet in order to be considered a State under international law? This article presents an analysis of this question by IDI experts on terrorism and democracy.

How should suspected violations of the international laws of war be investigated? As Operation Protective Edge winds down, Prof. Yuval Shany and Prof. Amichai Cohen discuss the options of an internal investigation by the IDF, an international investigation, and an Israeli commission of inquiry.

IDI Researcher Attorney Eli Bahar discusses the central role that members of Israel's system of legal counsel play in formulating the rules of what is permissible during warfare in real time, during the fighting, in order to ensure that Israel's citizens will not be ashamed of themselves after the fighting ceases. 

In an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Prof. Yuval Shany discuss the need for measures, laws, and institutions designed to combat the war on terror in order to strike a balance between concern for national security and the need to safeguard democratic values such as human rights and the rule of law.

As the world considers the threat of a nuclear Iran, Israeli public discourse has focused primarily on whether or not Israel should launch a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. But who has the authority to decide whether a military operation should be conducted? In this article, IDI Vice President Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and researcher Eyal Tsur explore the strengths and weaknesses of the current division of responsibility regarding this matter, and recommend ways of improving the system.

The violent incidents that took place on the Israeli-Syrian border in June 2011 raise the question of how the Israel Defense Forces should deal with violent events that resemble disturbances while at the same time affecting important Israeli security interests. IDI Senior Fellow Prof. Yuval Shany offers his analysis of the Israeli response to these events.

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, IDI Vice President of Research, analyzes fundamental principles that bear crucially on the moral aspects of the Goldstone Report, Israel's stance with respect to the report, and contemporary international criminal law in general. 

Judge Richard Goldstone’s retraction of his commission's finding that Israeli actions in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead deliberately targeted civilians righted a historical injustice. But did the actions of the State of Israel contribute to the false impression received by the Goldstone Commission? In this op-ed, IDI Senior Fellow Prof. Yuval Shany explores the question of whether the Israeli government should also search its soul and consider participation in future international commissions of inquiry.

An analysis of the proposed comprehensive counter-terrorism bill that was prepared by IDI's Terrorism and Democracy research team and submitted to the Ministry of Justice.

This op-ed by IDI Prof. Yuval Shany argues that despite the Goldstone Report’s shortcomings, it strengthens the demand to investigate claims raised against the IDF through an extra-military entity. As he sees it, the main question to address is whether the army's internal investigation of "Operation Cast Lead" meets the requirements of international law.

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Roy Konfino respond to a bill that in practice exempts the State of Israel from compensating Palestinians who live in the occupied territories for any damages the State may have caused them as part of the war on terror.