This week, I was informed by Prime Minister Netanyahu that he was relieving me of my position as deputy minister of defense. Nothing has made me prouder than to work alongside the diligent officials of the Defense Ministry, and I feel a sense of deep accomplishment for all we have achieved during my time there. I have had the privilege of working with Israel’s Haredi, Christian and Beduin communities to facilitate their recruitment into the Israel Defense Forces and help them integrate into society. Similarly, the ministry’s work over the past year to improve the conditions of our reservists will be felt by thousands of families for years to come.
It is no secret that the prime minister and I have had a long-running clash of ideas. It is also well known that these differences have been highlighted over the past few months and culminated with the government’s decision to release terrorists with blood on their hands for the privilege of negotiating with Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). I was pleased when my announcement that I would resign as deputy defense minister if the government continued to release murderers led the way for others to join me in pressuring the prime minister into suspending such an immoral practice.
After the latest round of talks with the Palestinians reached its inevitable end, I hoped the government would abandon the futile quest for meaningless talks with Abu Mazen. We all know that there are numerous threats to Israel’s security that our leaders should be focused on. At the top of the list is defeating the murderous terrorists of Hamas. This is why I was so disappointed with our reaction to the kidnapping and brutal murder of the three teenagers in Gush Etzion. Instead of seizing the opportunity to put an end to the military and so-called political wings of Hamas, we made do with arresting a few hundred radical advocates who may well be released the next time Tzipi Livni feels the urge for a meeting with Saeb Erekat.
Over the past few weeks, as Hamas began to increase the number of missiles and rockets fired at our southern communities, I implored the prime minister to carry out a military operation that would put an end to this intolerable reality. Unfortunately, it was only when the political pressure increased that the prime minister finally launched Operation Defensive Edge. Like all Israelis, it is my hope that this operation will lead to a new reality in which we can all sleep at night without fear of Hamas attacks.
This is why I was shocked when Prime Minister Netanyahu and the security cabinet agreed to the terms of the Egyptian- brokered cease-fire. It was clear to me that our mission was not complete and that now is not the time to be negotiating with the terrorists of Hamas. This was the opinion I voiced in all the appropriate internal forums, and this is what I told the public when it became clear that my wholly justified warnings were being ignored.
I know that there has been criticism about the tone and timing of my remarks, but this is exactly what sets Israeli democracy apart from our neighbors in this region. I was elected by the members of the Likud party to represent particular values and perspectives, an endorsement subsequently widened by the hundreds and thousands more Israelis who voted for the Likud to speak out on behalf of this approach. These are the people I represent, and it is my sacred duty to do so to the best of my ability.
I want to take this opportunity to express my unwavering support for the commanders and soldiers of the IDF and the other security forces. During my time as deputy defense minister, I have seen up close the sacrifices these brave men and women make throughout the year, especially in times like these. I also want to make clear that as long as this government continues to work toward the goal of eradicating Hamas, I will do everything within my power to rally local and international support.
There is nothing we all want more than to create a new reality of peace and tranquility for all Israelis, particularly for the residents of the South who have suffered for far too many years.
Going forward I will continue to stay true to the ideology and values that have guided me since I was a student activist 20 years ago. I realize that this stance will sometimes make the prime minister uncomfortable and may even represent a position which will not be accepted by the majority of Israelis.
Yet, at the end of the day, political leaders are elected to make difficult decisions that might even cost them votes at the ballot box. This is the only way I know how to lead. For if a politician is incapable of making the kind of sacrifices required to lead rather than follow, he has no right to ask for the public’s trust.
MK Danny Danon served as Israel’s 15th deputy minister of defense.