Likud MK Danny Danon tapped for second stint as Israeli envoy to UN

Lawmaker who served in role from 2015 to 2020 will be replacing outgoing ambassador Gilad Erdan

Likud MK Danny Danon in Jerusalem, September 13, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)
Likud MK Danny Danon in Jerusalem, September 13, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/FLASH90)

Likud MK Danny Danon was announced on Sunday as the next ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Gilad Erdan.

This will be Danon’s second stint at Turtle Bay; he served as Israel’s envoy to the UN from 2015 to 2020.

“MK Danon has extensive experience in the international arena,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement announcing the appointment, “and he will undoubtedly bring his talents and experience to bear at this time.”

The appointment must be approved by the government, though it is expected to pass easily. Danon is slated to begin the role in August, when Erdan returns to Israel.

In a statement responding to the appointment, Danon said he was willing to use his diplomatic chops to help Israel in the decidedly unfriendly forum, noting that he had been doing what he could throughout the war, including hosting visiting dignitaries on tours of the south.

“At a time when the State of Israel is fighting on a large number of fronts, each of us must do the best within our skills and experience,” he said. “In the face of the diplomatic terror that rears its head these days, I am obliged to present the truth for the sake of the people of Israel and our common future in our homeland.”

Likud MK Danny Danon and former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley in the Gaza border community of Nir Oz, May 27, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

Hebrew media speculation suggested that Netanyahu was happy to send Danon back to New York, as he is considered one of the more adversarial voices against the prime minister within Likud, and could join party stalwarts such as MKs Yuli Edelstein and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in attempting to challenge Netanyahu for the party leadership.

In an interview with The Times of Israel in March, Danon — who challenged Netanyahu for the Likud chairmanship in 2007 and 2014 — said the country and the party’s focus should be on the war.

“I think today we should care less about the polls and more about what’s happening in Gaza. If Netanyahu will lead the nation to full victory, I think that’s what we expect him to do and that’s the only way for Israel to recover,” he said.

Danon was the subject of some criticism in November when he suggested that European countries take in some voluntary refugees from Gaza amid the war.

The Likud MK published a joint op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal with Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben-Barak calling for “countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate.” The op-ed sparked backlash from those who believe that any relocation of Gazans from the Strip would mark an irreversible expulsion.

Even after the end of his first stint in the UN, Danon has continued to be critical of the body and especially its leader, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres — an approach he is likely to continue when he returns to New York.

Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters on February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In November, Danon said in a radio interview that “we saw the UN secretary-general take a very hostile position toward Israel. Sometimes I don’t know if he’s a spokesman for the UN or a spokesman for Hamas.”

“He issues messages against Israel every day, he doesn’t mention the hostages at all, he thinks we set out on this operation because we wanted to — it’s outrageous,” Danon continued.

Asked by the host if he thought calling Guterres a Hamas spokesperson would “advance Israel’s goals in the world,” Danon doubled down, suggesting that he should be considered persona non grata in Washington and elsewhere.

“He crossed the line, and I know him personally,” he said. “I hosted him at my house for Shabbat meals, he toured the Gaza Strip with me, we went inside Hamas’s tunnels. He knows what all this is about, and so the biased stance he adopted is very grave.”

Israeli officials have expressed ire at Guterres and the UN throughout the ongoing war, and reacted with fury last week after Israel was added to the United Nations’ so-called “list of shame,” which is attached to an annual report released by Guterres’s office that documents alleged rights violations against children in armed conflict.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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