Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday slammed statements made last week by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, and called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to act decisively to quell such dissent from within the government in order to push forward a regional peace settlement.
In an interview with The Times of Israel last week, Danon said that the current government will never approve a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Danon’s comments contradicted statements made in the past by Netanyahu and other senior cabinet members, who have endorsed, albeit grudgingly, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The controversy also came at the height of a new American-led push to kick-start the long-dormant peace talks.
Addressing members of her Hatnua faction, Livni said that “the prime minister must decide if he is going to allow ‘Danonism’ to control [national] discourse, or if he will let forces that understand that a diplomatic solution is in Israel’s interest make a decision.”
Livni further called on members of the Yesh Atid party, which she said had announced during the coalition talks that “they would not sit in the coalition without a diplomatic solution [with the Palestinian Authority],” to take a more active role in the peace process. Yesh Atid, which is led by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, has 19 seats in the Knesset, making it the second-largest party in the government.
As part of the coalition agreement that put Livni in the Justice Ministry, she was also given the job of heading peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Danon drew fire both from within the coalition, as well as in the opposition after his comments last week. On Monday, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that his boss, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, had further distanced himself from his deputy’s remarks.
“I’ve given up [my] responsibility for him a long time ago. Don’t come to me with complaints” about Danon, Ya’alon was quoted as saying behind closed doors by the Hebrew daily.
Reportedly, since Danon’s appointment as No. 2 in the Defense Ministry, Ya’alon “seriously curtailed [Danon’s] powers as his deputy, reduced as much as possible his meetings with military personnel and didn’t permit him to appoint [for himself] a military aide.”
Despite the backlash from all sides, Danon has continued to stand behind his statements.
“Oy, vey! Is it such a criminal offense to oppose a two-state solution?” he said in an interview on Sunday with Army Radio. “There are factions within the government that say that if there is progress toward establishing a Palestinian state, they would oppose it.”
Danon said that he personally opposes a two-state solution, as do the majority of Israelis. “In the Likud there’s certainly no majority for it,” he said. He also indicated that the Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu parties oppose it as well.
Aaron Kalman and Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.