Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday attempted to silence his critics on the Right by firing his deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, from his own Likud Party.
The decision came after Netanyahu was attacked all day long for his decision to accept an Egyptian- brokered cease-fire with Hamas. In addition to Danon, he faced sharp criticism from Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, and other politicians inside the Likud.
But Netanyahu’s associates said Danon had crossed a redline by saying on a visit to the South that Hamas had humiliated Israel and was once again setting conditions for Israel’s policies.
A source close to Netanyahu said that such a statement, coming from Israel’s deputy defense minister, had emboldened Hamas and harmed Israel’s deterrence.
“While Israel is in the midst of a military operation against terrorist organizations and working determinedly to maintain the security of Israeli citizens, the deputy defense minister cannot sharply attack the leaders of the state,” Netanyahu said. “His harsh statements, which Hamas used against Israel, prove his irresponsibility.”
Netanyahu said that if Danon lacked confidence in his own government, he should have resigned.
Because Danon did not quit, the prime minister said he had no choice but to fire him.
Sources close to Netanyahu said that Liberman and Bennett had been more careful in their criticism of the prime minister. Liberman made a point of not mentioning him by name in a Knesset press conference, and Bennett wrote his MKs asking them not to criticize the prime minister personally. Netanyahu issued veiled criticism of Liberman and Bennett in a press conference in Tel Aviv, saying that he would continue acting without “militancy and rashness.” His associates admitted that he could not fire Liberman or Bennett, because it would lead to his coalition coming apart.
Danon responded defiantly to his firing by saying that he would not come in line with “the spirit of leftist feebleness of the prime minister” and “would not sell out his ideology for an office and a driver.” He condemned Netanyahu for “not accepting that there are other views inside his party.”
As chairman of the Likud’s powerful central committee, Danon can use the party’s institutions to avenge his firing. Danon told The Jerusalem Post that he would do so if he sees the prime minister continuing to implement the policies of Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni.
Danon revealed that he had penned a resignation letter when Netanyahu’s intention to seek a cease-fire was announced on Monday night. But he decided not to deliver it and to “leave politics for later” when the IDF resumed attacks on terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
Backed by polls broadcast Tuesday night, Danon expressed confidence that most of the public agrees with him that it is wrong to seek a cease-fire. A poll broadcast on Channel 10 found that 73 percent of Israelis oppose the cease-fire.
When a Channel 2 poll asked whether a cease-fire would bring about quiet, 92% of respondents said yes and 6% said no.