Labor MK Isaac Herzog on Saturday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remove Deputy Defense Ministry Danny Danon from his post for claiming in an interview to the Times of Israel that the government is not interested in advancing a two-state solution.
“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 Herzog, a former welfare minister.
“Danon’s words carry a tone of disrespect and condescension towards the prime minister, who just a few days ago at the Knesset spoke of the need for an agreement with the Palestinians. It is time for the government to decide its true position on this critical issue and make it clear to the Israeli people and the international community once and for all,” Herzog added.
In an interview with The Times of Israel, which was published on Thursday, Danon argued that a strong majority in the government and the coalition oppose a two-state solution with the Palestinians and would block the creation of a Palestinian state if such a proposal ever came to a vote.
Earlier Saturday, opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich told Netanyahu to take steps toward a political peace agreement with the Palestinians, adding that her party would consider joining the coalition if such a step were necessary to achieve that goal.
The Labor Party leader, speaking at a Shabbat culture series in Ness Ziona, said there wouldn’t be a “better Palestinian partner in the next few years” and that the dramatic shifts around the Middle East are not in Israel’s favor. The majority of lawmakers in the Knesset support peace talks, she added.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatnua) also responded to Danon’s words, saying “anyone who tries to bury the two-state solution gives life to the idea of a binational state and endangers the future of Zionism. Hatnua entered the coalition in order to advance negotiations on a two-state solution and will continue to do so,” said the former defense minister.
The Danon interview, with its no-nonsense summation of the anti-Palestinian statehood mindset of most coalition members, has made international headlines, and apparently prompted discomfort in the Prime Minister’s Office.
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 said in response to Danon’s interview.
Yachimovich beseeched Netanyahu to take “brave steps” toward peace talks.
“The opposition won’t behave like the opposition on these matters, but will support you from its benches,” she said, adding that, although Labor strongly disagrees with the social and economic policies of Netanyahu’s Likud, her party would nonetheless “reconsider offers to join the government” if necessary.
“We will not let you fall because of it [the pursuit of peace talks],” Yachimovich said, directing her comments at the prime minister.
She explained that the Labor Party would support the prime minister and provide him a political safety net to advance peace talks. “We are saying to you, Netanyahu, ‘go forward.'”
Earlier this week, during his first major interview with an Israeli news outlet since he became deputy minister, Danon said the current government would not back a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“Look at the government: there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution,” Danon said. “If you will bring it to a vote in the government — 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.”
The sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Saturday that the prime minister “is interested in a resumption of negotiations without preconditions,” and that his positions regarding support for a two-state solution remain in force.
“Netanyahu calls on the president of the Palestinian Authority to restart talks without delay at which all issues will be raised to discussion,” the sources said. “The Palestinian Authority will raise its demands, and Israel will raise its demands which include, among others, stringent security arrangements, recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and the declaration of an end to the conflict.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.