Deputy minister threatens Likud mutiny over peace talks

Danny Danon says prime minister will be ousted if he continues to go along with Kerry’s peace plan

Danny Danon. (Flash 90)
Danny Danon. (Flash 90)

A senior lawmaker from the Likud’s right flank threatened Thursday to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the party’s leadership if he takes peace talks with the Palestinians “too far.”

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon warned that anyone who embraces US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework for peace cannot remain head of the ruling Likud party.

“If Netanyahu progresses too far in the negotiations we will oust him from the Likud leadership,” Danon said during an interview with Army Radio on Thursday. “The significance of this framework plan is abandoning the Jordan Valley, [returning to] the 1967 borders, and the division of Jerusalem.”

The comments came a day after Danon threatened to quit his post if Netanyahu goes ahead with a planned fourth release of Palestinian prisoners as part of peace talks.

Danon said the rest of the party, which sits on the political right, would not accede to a deal brokered by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who hails from the left-leaning Hatnua faction.

“As someone who understands the soul of Likud members we will not support a framework that brings us to the position of Tzipi Livni,” he added.

Control of the Jordan Valley, a strategically important region that would form the border between a proposed Palestinian state and neighboring Jordan, is a major sticking point in peace negotiations. While Israel insists on maintaining an IDF presence in the valley the Palestinians demand a complete withdrawal.

Kerry has in the past suggested an interim framework agreement that would leave Israel with regulation of border crossings during a transitional period of several years leading to full Palestinian control.

On Wednesday, Danon threatened to resign, saying nothing would come of the negotiations with the Palestinians.

“I have come to a decision: I will not be part of the executive branch — the cabinet — if it approves and goes through with an additional prisoner release as part of the ‘fourth round’ that is supposed to take place on the 28th of this month,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The day that the first Palestinian murderer walks free from prison, I will submit a letter of resignation from my post of deputy defense minister of the Israeli government.”

Israel agreed to the release of 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in four stages as part of a package to relaunch peace talks last July. But after carrying out the first three releases, some Israeli officials, including Israel’s Livni, have cast doubt on prospects that the government will go through with the fourth, as the Palestinians have said that they would not agree to continue negotiating past an April deadline unless Israel freezes settlement construction and agrees to release even more prisoners.

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