One would expect Israel’s deputy defense minister to focus on threats to the
country’s security from Iran and Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.
Danon is not your typical deputy defense minister.
His focus is on
stopping the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, whether in
permanent or temporary borders.
And thanks to his recent election as
president of the Likud convention and chairman of the Likud central committee,
he now has the ammunition of the party’s institutions to fight.
hopes such a fight will not be necessary, because he would like to think the
leader of Likud, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will not permit Israel’s
negotiating team with the Palestinians to agree to the creation of a Palestinian
Moreover, if Netanyahu did endorse the views of the head of his
negotiating team, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and the Likud then voted to
oppose a deal Livni reached with the Palestinians, Netanyahu would accept the
decision of his party.
But Danon must be ready for every eventuality. And
he has heard via leaks from the negotiations that Israel is pushing for an
interim agreement that would create a Palestinian state in temporary
When Danon told Likud activists in Samaria that whoever would
promote an interim agreement with the Palestinians does not belong in the Likud,
Netanyahu was not happy. He scolded Danon in a meeting last week in which he did
not accept Danon’s explanation that he was not necessarily referring to
In an interview over waffles at a Jerusalem cafe, Danon explains
what he meant. Chances are the prime minister will not like this
“If there is an agreement in the spirit of Tzipi Livni’s views,
and Netanyahu decides to support it, and the Likud decides to oppose it, the
party’s decision takes precedence,” Danon said.
Asked repeatedly what
would happen if Netanyahu does not accept the Likud’s decision, Danon gives
increasingly interesting answers.
First, the diplomatic answer that his
spokesman sitting next to him probably wanted him to say: “My experience with
the prime minister is that he accepts democratic decisions.”
noted former prime minister Ariel Sharon rejecting the Likud’s decision against
withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and leaving to form a new party.
where that [not abiding by the Likud’s decisions] led last time,” he said. “I
don’t think the prime minister is there.”
Asked a final time about the
possibility of Netanyahu being forced out of Likud by party activists, Danon did
not hold back.
“It can happen if he decides to endorse Livni’s views,” he
said. “A deal giving up most of Judea and Samaria – the current Likud leadership
will not accept that. We [who oppose such steps] are the majority in the
Something so important [as giving up land] cannot be done via
Danon expressed concern that 20 years after the
signing of the Oslo Accords, the leftists who initiated that diplomatic process
are advising Livni to change her negotiating strategy from “there is no deal on
anything until there is a deal on everything” to “once an agreement is reached
on anything, implement it immediately, even if disputes on key issues
The ongoing talks with the Palestinians are expected to be the
focus of a long-awaited Likud convention on diplomatic issues that will be held
in November or December. Danon intends to warn the convention that Israeli
concessions must be stopped in their infancy and not allowed to
“I learned from Oslo and disengagement that we cannot afford to
rest on our laurels,” he said. “We in Likud have to be careful to make sure we
don’t wake up with a grandiose peace plan for a ‘New Middle East.’ Some
ministers say nothing will come of it and there’s nothing to worry about, but
history proves that complacency on the Right leads to bad
Danon has become close in recent years to some of the top
figures in the US’s Republican Party, especially on its more conservative side.
He saw firsthand how the influence of so-called Tea Party activists and
candidates on the far Right ended up harming the party’s efforts to obtain the
support of undecided voters in the Center of the political map.
Likud’s institutions were taken over by hawks like Danon, Deputy Foreign
Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Transportation Minister Israel Katz, there was talk
that the Likud was following in the footsteps of the Republicans and could
Danon rejected the analogy.
“Our situation is
different,” he said.
“The ‘Tea Partyization’ of the Republican party
won’t happen in the Likud because of the makeup of our faction, which is solidly
Right. We aren’t changing. We are staying loyal to the party’s traditional
views. Our views have not moved.”
While Danon acknowledges that thousands
of residents of Judea and Samaria joined the party to shift it rightward by
voting for more hawkish MKs, he said he knows statistically that without the
votes over the Green Line, the party’s Knesset list would have been the same.
Candidates who openly favor creating a Palestinian state like former minister
Dan Meridor still would not have been elected.
“We will be less of a
supermarket party, smaller but more homogenous,” he said.
thought that by appointing Danon to the sensitive post of deputy defense
minister, he would silence him, he has succeeded – but only partially. On the
one hand, Danon continues to make his views against a Palestinian state crystal
clear. But on the other, Danon has quieted down on US politics.
who wrote a book criticizing US President Barack Obama ahead of the American
election was noticeably silent when Obama decided to turn to Congress rather
than authorize a strike against Syria on his own. Danon knows where much of his
ministry’s funding comes from and is acting accordingly.
“I am still
loyal to my opinions, and I’m not hiding my views,” he said. “But as Israel’s
deputy defense minister, there are statements on security and diplomatic issues
that have increased significance and ramifications, and there are sensitive
issues that the prime minister asks those in the government to be careful not to
“Nevertheless, if a foreign government, no matter how close,
puts pressure on Israel, I will state my views clearly.”
in the Defense Ministry include helping reservists and the ministry’s welfare
department, which deals with drafting minorities, including haredim, Christian
Arabs, and Beduin.
He also is using the post to try to help residents of
Judea and Samaria. For instance, he is pushing for more buses to go from the
country’s Center to Samaria.
“I’m pushing not for affirmative action but
just for equality,” he said. “I would be happy if this would benefit the
Palestinians too, but my goal is to help the Jews.”