The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, chaired by MK Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid), convened on Monday and heard a briefing from National Security Council (NSC) head Dr. Eyal Hulata.
The opening statements made by Committee Chair MK Ben Barak and National Security Council head Dr. Hulata were open to media coverage, whereas the rest of the meeting was classified.
Committee Chair MK Ben Barak: “I welcome the head of the National Security Council, my friend Dr. Eyal Hulata, in his first appearance before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. I am very glad such a discussion is being held — while it’s obvious [that it should be held], it is important.
“The National Security Council currently occupies a central and important place in the decision-making system. For many years, the balance between the defense organizations, particularly the staff organizations, was skewed, and the NSC took a back seat relative to other agencies.
“The quality of decision-making is usually measured by the quality of staff work and preparatory work, even before the decision is made by the Prime Minister and the Political Security Cabinet. The NSC and the national security advisor are called upon to integrate the staff work in areas of national security, on broad-based issues that affect us all on a national level, not only on security issues.
“I am closely familiar with the influence that the post of national security advisor has on national security issues, both in an advisory capacity to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and in the role of implementing a large share of the Prime Minister’s decisions.
“For this reason, I think that a productive discussion between the committee members and Dr. Hulata is vital in order to maintain a dialogue on policy issues and to ensure that the implementation of the Political Security Cabinet decisions operates in accordance with the government’s directives.
“Eyal, you have arrived at your post from the right places. We have known each other for many years, and your impressive professional record, along with the knowledge and education that you gained in the years before reaching the Prime Minister’s Office, have prepared you for the post. I wish you success in your post and wish us a productive, in-depth and interesting discussion.”
National Security Council head Dr. Hulata thanked the committee chair for his statement and for the invitation to appear before the committee.
In the classified portion of the meeting, the National Security Council head said that the NSC was in advanced stages of drawing up Israel’s national situation assessment, in a significant and orderly process, and that the assessment was scheduled to be presented to the government.
Dr. Hulata added that he attached great importance to the fact that the NSC is working to increase collaboration between national security organizations, for the purpose of effective and optimal realization of capabilities and strengths and for reducing gaps between planning and implementation.
The NSC head pointed at the Iranian nuclear program as the primary core challenge facing the NSC and Israel. He said that although Iran was engaging in nuclear extortion, he believed that a unified and determined international community could still impose on Iran greater strategic concessions than in the past.
The second most important core challenge noted by the NSC head was the full realization of normalization and the Abraham Accords. He emphasized that the NSC was acting on the issue wherever necessary in cooperation with all relevant ministries and relevant agencies, including the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and adding its strengths wherever necessary. He said that the NSC, along with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and other agencies, was working to bolster the accords and even expand them to additional countries.
The NSC head also commented on the NSC’s responsibility for civilian affairs, focusing on the importance of ensuring continuity of operations in every emergency scenario, from harm caused by warfare, through the effects of climate change, to preparations for any kind of future pandemic, not just the present-day impact of COVID-19.
Dr. Hulata said that the climate crisis issue had been included in the national situation assessment, and a unique reference scenario had been created for it, which could also serve as the basis for regional and geopolitical initiatives.
He added that the NSC, at the instructions of the Prime Minister, operated as an integrative lead agency, which coordinated the handling of all aspects of the domestic arena.
The NSC head was asked to comment on the current state of the global systems, and said that in his view the global balance was shifting, along with economic issues and COVID-19 that were also affecting the country’s agenda.
Throughout the classified portion of the meeting, the committee members stressed the role of the National Security Council as a staff organization that is meant, through presentation of alternatives to the political echelon, to primarily challenge the defense establishment.