In an interview with The Times of Israel in June 2013, Danny Danon, serving at the time as deputy minister of defense, asserted that his Likud party and the governing coalition of the day were staunchly opposed to a two-state solution. Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s professions of support in principle for a two-state deal, the government, said Danon, would block the creation of a Palestinian state if such a proposal ever came to a vote.
His comments caused an uproar. Taking the highly unusual step of contacting The Times of Israel during Shabbat, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office insisted that Danon’s remarks did “not represent the position of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government of Israel.” Quite the contrary. The sources went on to say that the prime minister “is interested in a resumption of negotiations without preconditions,” and that his positions regarding support for a two-state solution remained in force.
On Friday, Netanyahu announced the appointment of Danon as Israel’s next ambassador to the United Nations — the representative of Israel, that is, who is charged with arguing Israel’s case at the UN Security Council.
Later in 2013, Danon stepped up his rhetoric, declaring that anyone who supports a peace agreement with the Palestinians has no place in the Likud party. The Likud “won’t support an agreement that hands away our assets for nothing,” Danon asserted. And whoever supports such an agreement, “choosing to go against the ideals of the Likud, won’t be in the Likud.”
In March of last year, as Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to salvage his ill-fated attempt at peacemaking, Danon explicity warned Netanyahu not to give ground. “If Netanyahu progresses too far in the negotiations we will oust him from the Likud leadership,” Danon promised.
That May, Danon castigated Kerry in an op-ed for Politico, lambasting the secretary for trying to “scare the Israeli public into capitulation.”
This is the man whom Netanyahu has now decided can best represent Israel in the incredibly problematic “family of nations,” facing off against ever-intensifying criticism where the measure of support for Israel might best be gauged by the 2012 General Assembly vote to upgrade the Palestinians to nonmember status. Those who voted with Israel could be counted on two hands with fingers left over: Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama and the United States. How many countries voted in support of the Palestine upgrade? 138.
Later last May, in conversation with The Times of Israel, Danon reiterated his fierce opposition to any two-state solution, instead calling on Israel to annex parts of the West Bank. While international consensus speaks of Israel retaining the major Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, and the rest going to a future Palestinian state, Danon hopes to “gain sovereignty over the majority of the land” in the West Bank, “with the minimum number of Palestinians,” he said.
According to Danon’s plan, the Palestinians’ status “will have to be determined with Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. It shouldn’t be Israel’s burden to deal with that issue.” Israel made a mistake by not annexing major parts of the West Bank after capturing them in 1967, Danon said that day. “But it’s not too late.”
This is the man whom Netanyahu now wants to represent Israel in the inevitable future bitter debates about the occupation, settlements, and Palestinian rights, at the world’s problem-solving forum.
On the eve of this March’s elections, Netanyahu told a Hebrew website that he did not envisage establishing a Palestinian state, given the dangers and unpredictability of the Middle East. President Barack Obama, a relentless critic of Netanyahu’s settlement policies and overall approach to the Palestinian conflict, seized upon this comment as proof that the prime minister was not committed to the internationally envisaged solution, and said he would consequently have to re-evaluate America’s approach to the issue.
Two days after the election, safely back in power, Netanyahu attempted to walk back his earlier remark, insisting that he remained supportive in principle of a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but that the threats in the region made that notion hard to imagine at present.
It was an argument not without merit, but Obama was unswayed. He continued to highlight Netanyahu’s no-statehood comment, and ignored the backtrack.
On Friday, Netanyahu named Danny Danon — arch-critic of a two-state solution, and the man who derided the notion of even the previous, more-moderate Netanyahu-led coalition approving any such deal — as his mouthpiece to the world leadership at the UN in New York.
Opposition critics in Israel quickly accused Netanyahu of playing petty politics — getting rid of a troublesome party rival at home by shunting him off to New York.
That’s the least of the problem.
The real issue is that Danon’s appointment appears to confirm everything Netanyahu’s critics at home and abroad have asserted about his true intentions with respect to the Palestinians. And since those critics are headed by the president of Israel’s main ally — with whom Netanyahu is already in open dispute over the deeply flawed accord with Iran — it is hard to conceive of a more short-sighted, shameful, self-defeating and damaging appointment. Not just for Netanyahu and his government, but for all of Israel.
Undeniably, now, by the prime minister’s own decree, Danny Danon is the true face of Netanyahu’s Israel.