Member of Knesset Danny Danon is a leading member of the ruling Likud Party in Israel who also serves as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He is outspoken and authoritative on the issues of the day, running the gamut from Israel’s relations with the U.S., to peace with the Palestinians, to whether or when to strike Iran.
MK Danon will be arriving in the U.S. this week for a countrywide tour promoting his new book, Israel, The Will to Prevail, published by Palgrave Macmillan. I spoke with Mr. Danon on Tuesday just prior to his departure from Israel for the U.S. It was the eve of the Democratic National Convention here in the States, and I asked Danon whether Israel has inserted itself too deeply into the American election by some officials criticizing President Obama and with the extraordinary reception they gave to Republican hopeful Mitt Romney last month in Israel.
“I’m not a Democrat or a Republican,” Danon said. “I am a proud Israeli, and as such I do not believe we can ignore the fact that President Obama has adopted the Palestinian position in the dispute between Israel and the Arabs.” The U.S. and Israel have a great deal in common, he added, saying that we share common values, common interests, and even the same enemies.
I asked the Deputy Speaker whether he thought that Israel’s leadership was making it too clear that they prefer a Romney victory in November and how, if Mr. Obama prevails, that choice will impact on U.S.–Israel relations. “I believe that the U.S. has made a mistake as far as the policy they have adopted on the Iran question,” he said. “Unlike the U.S., Israel cannot afford that kind of mistake.” As to the conflicting reports that seem to emanate mostly from Israel on a daily basis as to the propitiousness of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, Danon says that though some say Israel can afford to wait, the MK believes that the window is quickly closing and that it is a matter of months at best before a decision needs to be made.
About the personal relationship between Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Danon says that while it may not be the type of association that everyone would like, some past relationships of this type were not always the best either. He says that in 2002, during the height of the intifada, the relationship between President George W. Bush and PM Ariel Sharon were also very strained, but that situation did not really impact on the close working abilities of the two countries.
It was President Bush—sometimes referred to as the best friend Israel ever had in the White House—who, when Israel felt a need to send the IDF into densely populated Palestinian cities, urged Sharon in very strong terms to remove those forces. Of course the forces stayed in place until the situation was stabilized, and the excellent relationship between the U.S. and Israel resumed on its customary high and friendly level.
There is a sense today, however, that something has changed, and in a very dramatic fashion. Mr. Obama knows that the race with Mr. Romney is very tight at this point and that key swing states happen to have significant Jewish populations. For now, Mr. Obama has to lie low with his criticism of Israel. It is fairly clear that the hope in Israel is that Mr. Romney will be elected in November. But what if President Obama is reelected? What then?
To this Mr. Danon responds that Israel has very good friends and very strong support in the Congress of the United States. He didn’t come out and say that he was hoping for a Romney victory, but every indication seems to say that this is the case. Is it a gamble for the Jewish state? The sense is that there is an element of hostility harbored by Mr. Obama for Israel and there is really not much that can be done to change that at this point.
On whether Israel was too welcoming, friendly, or overly cordial to Mr. Romney when he was in Israel in August, MK Danon says that when candidate Obama visited Israel in 2008, he was shown the same courtesy and receptiveness that Mr. Romney was shown last month.
On the subject of the stalemated peace process and where Israel and the Palestinians go from here, Danny Danon said in our interview and has written in his newly released book that the idea of a two-state solution is no longer feasible or workable. “I think that it is time to move ahead and for us to declare the two-state solution dead, and as I propose in my book I believe we should begin exploring a three-state solution,” Danon says.
He explains that the three-state solution as he sees it means that Israel goes ahead and annexes parts of Judea and Samaria. The three states involved in this formula are Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Danon says that under his plan, Arab residents of the territories will have Jordanian citizenship while remaining in their homes on the West Bank. As far as Gaza is concerned, the same type of relationship would be invoked for its residents, but this time with Egypt.
I asked MK Danon if his plan means that parts of Judea and Samaria become Jordanian territory, the way it was prior to 1967, and Gaza reverts to Egyptian sovereignty. His response was, “Absolutely not.” He explained the proposal by saying that some innovative plan was needed in order to move things forward. “The fact is that many Gaza residents identify with Egypt more than with Israel, and Arab residents of Yehuda and the Shomron identify more readily and more naturally with Jordan. If these residents of Israel want to travel, then perhaps it should be done from Amman instead of from Ben-Gurion Airport,” Danon says. “It’s high time that Israel declare its sovereignty over its natural lands.” When asked whether he is concerned about international reaction, he said that Israel annexed Jerusalem right after the Six Day War and somehow the world adjusted. And he adds that a few years later, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin took the courageous step and annexed the Golan Heights. Again the world protested, but those protests came and went.
On the recent uprooting of settlers from Migron earlier this week, Danny Danon says that this just illustrates how important it is for the Israeli government to stop dawdling and declare its sovereignty over communities like this and others. He says that the current issue that Israel is grappling with is whether to recognize Ariel University in the Shomron as a full-fledged university. The school, which is attended by thousands of Jewish and Arab students, has been approved by the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education in tandem with the IDF. The committee of the seven Israeli university presidents issued a statement saying: “This is a political decision and it was preordained. The prime minister now needs to show leadership and prevent a disaster from befalling the higher-education system in Israel.”
This week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the IDF to hold off on its recognition of Ariel U. For his part, Danny Danon finds Barak’s position unacceptable, and, he says, Barak is doing this in an effort to breathe some life into his rapidly evaporating political career.
Danon is an unabashed and outspoken activist for everything that is right about Israel as it looks ahead to an uncertain future. He is one of Israel’s very bright shining stars and of whom former U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said, “Danny Danon is one of Israel’s emerging leaders and a force for keeping Israel free and strong.” The words ring true on many levels, as Danny Danon takes a stand on the issues of the day. He says some things that may not be popularly supported at present, but they make sense and help the Jewish state break out of a logjam and move forward in a free and independent fashion.
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