Amid uproar, deputy defense minister stands by rejection of two states

Opposition MK calls for Danny Danon’s dismissal, fellow coalition partners say they’ll bolt if Palestinian state off the table

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Danny Danon at his office in the Knesset. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Danny Danon at his office in the Knesset. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) on Sunday stuck to his guns and defended statements he’d made to The Times of Israel last week in which he claimed that most of those in the coalition are opposed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Oy vey! Is it such a criminal offense to oppose a two-state solution?” he said in an interview with Army Radio.

Danon dismissed claims that the views he had expressed in last week’s interview were his and not those of the government, saying, “There are factions within the government that say that if there should be progress toward establishing a Palestinian state, they would oppose it.” He said he  personally opposes a two-state solution, that most of the public opposes it, and “that in the Likud there’s certainly no majority for it.” The Jewish Home and Yisrael Beytenu parties also oppose it, he indicated.

“There’s nothing new here,” he said in defense of his statements, pointing out that “there are no negotiations [with the Palestinians]” in the first place.

Danon had said in his Times of Israel interview that “there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution… and nobody will bring it to a vote, it’s not smart to do it — but if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.”

Coalition members voiced outrage Sunday at Danon’s statements, while opposition MKs called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remove the deputy defense minister from his post.

Labor Party MK Nahman Shai told Israel Radio that if Danon had erred in his assessment of the government’s intentions then the prime minister must immediately dismiss him, and advance the peace process.  

“The prime minister must immediately relieve Danny Danon of his duties because of the grave damage his words inflicted on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive peace negotiations,” said MK Isaac Herzog (Labor), a former welfare minister, on Saturday.

Justice minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) said Danon’s statements against the two-state solution “harmed the peace process.”

Her fellow party member, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, wrote on his Facebook wall that “whoever tries to bury the idea of two states gives credence to the idea of a binational state and endangers the future of Zionism.”

MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnua) told Army Radio that “it’s surprising that the deputy defense minister doesn’t understand that his position is different from that of an ordinary MK who says such things.” Mitzna said that Danon’s statements undermined the stability of the coalition, noting that Hatnua had joined the government in order to advance negotiations with the Palestinians. Hatnua, he said, would break off from the coalition if a two-state solution were not a basis for negotiations.

“The condition [of Hatnua’s inclusion in the coalition] is the advancement of the peace process. If we reach the conclusion that it’s not part of the process, we won’t be [in the government],” he said.

Conservative Israel Hayom columnist Dan Margalit tweeted in response to Danon’s comments, “In what country can Danny Danon keep his position after saying that the government doesn’t intend what its prime minister committed to do? Bibi [Netanyahu] — wake up.”

The Prime Minister’s Office took the unusual step of contacting The Times of Israel on Shabbat to firmly distance itself from Danon’s comments.

His remarks “do not represent the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government of Israel,” sources in the PMO told The Times of Israel in response to Danon’s interview.

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