Opposition lawmakers criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Friday decision to appoint Science Minister Danny Danon, an outspoken opponent of Palestinian statehood, as Israel’s next UN ambassador.
“Netanyahu is abandoning the state of Israel in the middle of a difficult battle in the international arena,” said Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni. The prime minister “prioritizes his personal interests in the Likud Central Committee over the security interests of the state of Israel,” she charged.
Danon, 44, has served as a Likud lawmaker since 2009. He was fired from his post as deputy defense minister last year by Netanyahu after publicly criticizing what he called the government’s insufficiently aggressive conduct of that summer’s war with Hamas in Gaza. Danon is an outspoken opponent of the two-state solution.
Danon chairs the powerful Likud Central Committee and has sparred with Netanyahu in recent years over control of internal Likud party institutions.
Critics noted that Danon has no diplomatic experience.
Opposition leader and Zionist Union head MK Isaac Herzog called the appointment “cynical and driven by petty politics.”
“This is like an elephant in a China shop,” said Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit. “Danon will make us miss the harm Netanyahu caused to Israel’s foreign relations.”
He echoed others’ comments, accusing the prime minister of preferring “his own small interests” and “selling out Israel’s international interests.”
A statement from Zionist Union called the move “another nail in the coffin of Israel’s foreign relations,” and said “Netanyahu is behaving like the smallest [apparatchik] in the Likud, not like a leader.”
Likud voices were generally muted immediately after the announcement was made Friday morning, with one exception. Likud’s minister for minorities and equality Gila Gamliel called Danon “the right man in the right place whose success will be the success of all of us.”
Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, announced he would run for Likud Central Committee chair and would ask the prime minister to appoint him science minister in Danon’s stead. Hanegbi served as Central Committee chair from 1997 till 2005.
Culture Minister Miri Regev also announced she would run for Central Committee chair.
At a meeting last year with Times of Israel staff, 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 settlements 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 his plan, the Palestinians would keep only their major population centers and would not receive Israeli citizenship. “Their status will have to be determined with Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. It shouldn’t be Israel’s burden to deal with that issue. I think Jordan must be involved more than they are today.”
How exactly a future agreement would look, Danon said, remains unclear. “It’s not only [a choice between] two states or one state. That’s how it’s being presented. But I say wait, there are other options, let’s wait and discuss,” he said. “If you look at what’s happening today in the region, you see that everything is open to negotiations.”
Israel made a mistake by not annexing major parts of the West Bank after capturing them in 1967, Danon said. “But it’s not too late.”
If he were in power, he would move to annex Area C, which covers some 60% of the West Bank and is home to an estimated 4% of the Palestinian populace. The territory should be annexed at a future opportune occasion, for example as a retaliatory step for unilateral moves by the Palestinians. “You need to think about the timing,” he said. “So I’m not saying to do it tomorrow morning. But it’s something that we should do, and we should think about when we do it and how we do it, but it’s something that we should aim for.”
Arguing for the Jews’ right to the land of Israel, Danon quoted the Bible and international treaties, but also what he said he considered simple logic: “When you win the war, you don’t make compromises after that,” he said. “It doesn’t work like that. We won the war — they can’t go back now and say, ‘Well, in ’48 [when the United Nations proposed a Jewish state and an Arab state] the intention was different.’ Yes, but the fact is that they lost. That’s part of life. We should retain what we won in the war.”