Why National Leaders Can Go Against Expert Advice

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In making decisions, the national leadership has not only the legal authority to ignore expert recommendations but also a solid conceptual basis for doing so based on broader considerations that transcend advanced knowledge.

The decision by PM Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet to adopt the police recommendation for the installation of metal detectors at the gates to the Temple Mount following the murder of two police officers at the holy site sparked a wave of media criticism, which gained rapid momentum as the Palestinians responded to the decision with violent protests. The question heard more and more was how the prime minister could have ignored the warnings of the Shabak (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF against the detectors’ placement. It was as if a contractor had ignored an engineer’s recommendation for the quantity of iron that was needed for the casting of a roof.

It is of course quite natural for concerned citizens to demand to know how government decisions are made. This is a basic issue in managing state affairs, as is the tension between the political echelon – which has the legal authority to make decisions – and the professional echelon. The fundamental question is to what extent national leaders are obligated to follow the recommendations of their professional advisers.

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About OyiaBrown

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