Prof. Daniel Kahneman was the guest of honor at the second Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee Conference for Military and Social Researchers in Israel

The Second KINNERET Conference of The Association of Civil-Military Studies in Israel
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Prof. Daniel Kahneman was the guest of honor at the second Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee Conference for Military and Social Researchers in Israel

The conference, which took place over two of the stormiest days – weatherwise – that Israel has experienced for many years, attracted impressive attendance, from military bodies and senior military personnel, and from leading researchers from the academy. The conference was initiated by the Kinneret Center on Peace, Security and Society in Memory of Dan Shomron together with the Israeli Association of Military and Social Researchers.

Economics Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Daniel Kahneman was the guest of honor at the second Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee Conference for Military and Social Researchers in Israel, which took place on December 11-12. A few weeks ago Kahneman received the Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama, at ceremony at the White House. 79 year old Kahneman was one of 16 recipients of the medal which is considered the highest civilian award in the United States.

The various panels addressed aspects of military activity in a civilian environment, the impact of politics and ideology on the battlefield, the decision making system, the IDF's relocation to the Negev the battlefield of the future and man's role in it, the struggle for historical truth, the new social reality in the IDF, bereavement from the standpoint of IDF widows etc.

The many leading figures who participated in the conference included Yoram Peri from the University of Maryland, who talked about structural failures in relations between the Chief of Staff and the political leadership, Prof. Ezra Sadan and Gen. (res.) Ilan Biran, who talk part in a panel discussion on Israel's defense budget.

"The next war could break out suddenly and we have to be prepared for that. The hostilities will start with missile fire on the home front, and the barrage will continue throughout the war," said Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, Head of the IDF Home Front Command, who took part in a panel discussion protecting and defending the home front. "After the last war we received a sport of social justice whereby the entire country was exposed to the threat of the missiles, and there are no longer any civilians who are not vulnerable," he added. "While there will be areas that are more vulnerable and areas that are less vulnerable, but there will not be more civilians outside the range. I believe we have to invest more in education and in warning systems, and less in the protection of civilians, through the right education of civilians how to behave in emergency situations, and by improving warning systems we will be able to provide the rear with better protection."

The panels also included Gen. (res.) Ilan Biran, chairman of the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee management committee. Like Gen. Eisenberg, Biran also believes in investing in education, but also in destroying the threat from the enemy. "Responsibility for the security of the home front rests with the government. If I had the resources I would invest them in education. The army's task is to create the most effective deterrent, and this can be achieved by eradicating the threat from the enemy before it is aimed at us. We have to continue investing in producing weapons which make it possible to destroy ballistic missiles in the air before the rear is aware of them."

Another speaker on the panel, Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Dov Tamari expressed concern regarding Israel's ability to protect the home front. "The responsibility for the security of Israel's home front is split between eight government ministries. The Home Front Defense Ministry was created for political needs, and this situation is very worrying."

"One of the main problems with which the defense budget has to cope is the insistence on conducting global recruitment, and now they want to recruit an entire sector of the population which is not particularly interested in serving. A change in approach will undoubtedly lead to increased efficiency, and budget savings," noted Prof. Ezra Sadan a former director general of the Ministry of Finance and of the Ministry of Agriculture, and one of Israel's leading economists. He made his remarks during a panel discussion on the defense budget. Sadan's observations were corroborated by Gen. (res.) Ilan Biran who also served as director general of the Ministry of Defense, who said: "The Compulsory recruitment Law enlists a lot of people whom the army simply does not need, and it costs the national economy over NIS 1 billion a year which can be saved."

Both also addressed an issue which arises every year, whereby the Ministry of Defense has to cut its budget. They said that the professional leadership has to carry out changes in the way it relates to budget negotiations. Sadan: "A differentiation should be made between budget discussions which took place in the past, when the budget in general was a part of the national product. Today the situation is different, whereby the national product has greatly increased and the Defense Ministry budget accounts for only a small percentage of the national product. I would expect that today's discussion would be more business-like that nitpicking."

Biran: "The defense budget has to a long term budget over at least 10 years, rather than a budget that is renewed annually. The idea is to build a budget which will be adjusted along a timeline. Devising such a framework will enable the IDF and the Defense Ministry to become more efficient, and to develop and plan in the long term."

The third speaker in the panel discussion, Prof. Asher Tishler, Dean of the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University , heavily criticized the professional hierarchy of the Finance Ministry. "If the Finance Ministry people were to read academic research papers which present analyses and comparisons with the way across-the-board cuts are made in defense systems around the world it would facilitate and increase the efficiency of the decision making processes. Unfortunately, the standard of the decision makers is very low and they have no idea about what they are talking about when they address such important decisions on subjects such as Israel's defense budget."