The Amnon Lipkin Shahak Program on National Security & Democracy

International Convention Center | Jerusalem, 9106001


Event Moderator: Channel 10 anchor Oshrat Kotler

More than 200 people turned out on Nov. 25 for the inaugural event of the Israel Democracy Institute new Center for National Security and Democracy, named to commemorate the legacy of Lieutenant-General Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Israel's fifteenth Chief-of-Staff.

The event also served as an opportunity to discuss this current round of terror and the challenges inherent in maintaining democratic values in time of war.

"On the one hand, we need to act with a strong hand to stop terrorism," said IDI President Yohanan Plesner. "On the other hand, we must preserve our nation which celebrates freedom and equality, and honors life."

He continued, "There is no security without democracy. … Democracy is our greatest defense."

In his remarks, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "War is obviously bad… We should only go to war when we know there is no other choice. … When we maintain our values, we remain people."

Ya'alon asked, "Should Palestinians have freedom of movement? Should they be given permits to come into Israel to work? What kinds of punishments – home demolitions – are acceptable?" He said these are all questions that must be discussed from a practical and ethical perspective by the new IDI center and every Israeli.

Admiral Amichay (Ami) Ayalon focused much of his talk on the work and practical implications of IDI's new Center for National Security and Democracy.

"The center plans to develop a doctrine by which democracies can better cope with asymmetric threats," said Ayalon, explaining that the ongoing debate about how liberal democracies should respond to asymmetric challenges reveals a dangerous and growing gap between the views of security practitioners and decision makers on the one hand, and those of lawyers and ethicists on the other.

The project has convened three working teams to focus on different aspects of this dilemma: 1) Ethics and Law, 2) Military Doctrine, and 3) Diplomacy and the Media.

"The project seeks to enable Israel and other liberal democracies to wage asymmetric conflicts while maintaining their democratic souls," said Ayalon.

He also spoke about the power of democracy, both as a powerful tool for Israel in the international arena and as the tool that will enable peace. Democracy, he said, is "the glue that will enable the Arabs and the Jews to live here, in Israel, together."

"I am always asking myself, 'What would Amnon say?'" said Tali Lipkin-Shahak in conclusion. "Amnon’s legacy commands us to strive continuously for a better balance between national security and human rights in the ongoing struggle for Israel’s survival."