Dani Dayan, ex-settler leader and consul-general to NY, joins Sa’ar’s party

Former diplomat is hawkish on security issues and pro-settlement, liberal in other areas; previously failed to enter Knesset with Jewish Home

Dani Dayan, left, and New Hope party leader Gideon Sa'ar, right, in a photo released by New Hope on January 13, 2021. (Courtesy/New Hope campaign)
Dani Dayan, left, and New Hope party leader Gideon Sa'ar, right, in a photo released by New Hope on January 13, 2021. (Courtesy/New Hope campaign)

Dani Dayan, Israel’s former consul-general to New York and former chairman of the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group, said Wednesday he was joining Gideon Sa’ar’s new right-wing party, New Hope.

Dayan said he joined the party out of a “sense of commitment to the need for a change of government and the formation of a new government headed by Gideon Sa’ar, the only one who can lead the change that Israel and its citizens need.”

Sa’ar said in a statement: “Dayan is an asset to the Israeli public. Dayan clearly and distinctly expresses the national-liberal idea and understands deeply the importance of unity in Israel and the unity of the Jewish people as a value and an essential part of the power of Israel.”

Dayan, 65, was born and raised in a Zionist family in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He concluded a four-year term as Israel’s top diplomat in New York over the summer.

Before becoming an ambassador, Dayan had unsuccessfully tried to enter the Knesset with the Jewish Home party. In an August interview with The Times of Israel, he ascribed his failure in politics to the clash between his hawkish views on diplomatic-security matters and his otherwise liberal values, calling himself a “political orphan.”

He has in the past spoken out in favor of Reform Judaism in the US, which is openly denigrated by many Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox politicians in Israel, straining ties with the Diaspora. As a diplomat, he criticized the lack of religious pluralism in Israel.

Dayan’s home is in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Shomron and he has been a longtime pro-settlement activist and leader. Sa’ar supports building up West Bank settlements and annexing parts of the West Bank, while granting some autonomy to the Palestinians living in the territory.

Sa’ar broke from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to challenge him for the premiership last month. Polls predict the party will be the second largest in the Knesset, with around 16 seats, trailing Likud’s 29 or so seats. Neither party has a clear path to a majority coalition.

Likud MKs Yifat Shasha-Biton, Ze’ev Elkin, Sharren Haskel and Michal Shir all broke from Netanyahu’s party to join New Hope. Derech Eretz MKs Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser, once members of the Blue and White party, also joined Sa’ar.

New elections, the fourth since April 2019, were called last month after the power-sharing government of Likud and Blue and White failed to agree on a budget by a December 23 deadline.

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