U.N. Ambassador Danon hopeful Netanyahu will stay on as PM

Danon, who is currently in Israel with a large group of UN ambassadors from around the world, briefly took time to participate in a frank Q&A session with members of the Foreign Press Association.

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Danny Danon speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, February 20, 2018 (photo credit: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Danny Danon speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, February 20, 2018
Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who in the past sought to contest the Likud leadership against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, now hopes that Netanyahu will continue to serve in his present role.
Danon, who is currently in Israel with a large group of UN ambassadors from around the world, briefly took time to participate in a Q&A session with members of the Foreign Press Association on Thursday morning.
A former government minister and member of Knesset prior to his appointment to the UN, Danon was widely reported to be coming home to run in the Likud primaries.
But he denied having told any reporter that this was his intention, and insisted that he still had important work to do at the UN.
When asked on Thursday what he thought about the possibility of Netanyahu being indicted, Danon replied: “I hope that the prime minister will not be indicted and will continue to lead the country.”
Danon was also asked about his own personal plans, as there is no guarantee that he will spend another few years at the UN. There are still many issues at the UN that he must deal with, he said. “But I promise to be back and active in public service.” He did not spell out in what capacity that might be.
Danon has a reputation for being on record in all of his conversations with journalists and Thursday was no exception.
His relationships at the UN, he said, were different to those in the Knesset. Whereas in the Knesset, they say nice things about someone to their face and different things behind closed doors, at the UN, many of the people who were publicly antagonistic towards him turned out to be very pleasant.
His greatest triumph – which he sees as a triumph for Israel – was his election in 2016 for a one-year term to chair the UN’s Sixth Committee which deals with all of the UN’s activities in the field of international law, including the fight against terrorism.
It was the first time ever that an Israeli had been elected to the post, and taking into account the general hostility towards Israel at the UN, it was almost miraculous that Danon received 109 votes.
Danon’s greatest challenges at the UN are to convince his colleagues from other countries that Hezbollah is an Iran-funded terrorist organization, and that there is a connection between Iran and terrorist organizations in Ramallah and Gaza. Another tough challenge concerns countries which become non-permanent members of the UN Security Council on a roster basis, and use the Security Council as a platform from which to attack Israel.
He was referring to Bolivia in particular, whose representative in March 2018 read out the names of 61 Palestinians from Gaza who had been killed by Israeli soldiers during violent border skirmishes.
Danon acknowledged that at the UN, he is frequently asked questions about alleged Israeli attacks against Palestinians. His response is always to ask for names and details so that he can check out the complaints. Such information is seldom forthcoming. “Some people try to manipulate the discussion,” he said, “but we should stick to the facts.”
It bothers him that “the UN, instead of focusing on human rights, focuses on condemning Israel.”
When he was asked by an FPA member about his thoughts on Jewish terrorists, Danon did not try to hide the fact that they exist, but pointed out that they are prosecuted and punished. “We condemn terrorism,” he said. “The Palestinians celebrate terrorism. You won’t find an Israeli school named after a Jewish terrorist. If anyone tried to do that, he would be condemned by society.”
Touching on the subject of the possibility of an influx of foreign embassies to Jerusalem, Danon surmised that the main obstacle was not so much political as the cost factor and the paucity of available land in the capital. However, those countries who are considering moving their embassies to Jerusalem know that it will be appreciated in Washington, he said.
Responding to a question about reviving the peace process, Danon said that Israel is willing to negotiate, but there’s no one with whom to do so. In the past, there was discussion over a one-state or two-state solutions, he said, “but that is not the situation today.” If there were negotiations, he added, Israel might take a hard position, but it would be capable of signing an agreement.
Danon and his colleagues were scheduled to meet on Thursday afternoon with US Ambassador David Friedman. Danon did not expect to hear much, if anything, about President Donald Trump’s peace plan, “but we respect the efforts of the US team without knowing the content,” he said.
Last year, Danon also came to Israel with a group of UN ambassadors whose visit had been sponsored by the American Zionist Movement and the International March of the Living.
This year, in the face of growing antisemitism, they went to Poland before coming to Israel. Among the places they went to in Poland was the Majdanek death camp, because, as the Ambassador pointed out, just hearing or reading about it wasn’t enough. In the current racist and antisemitic climate, he said, it was important for them to see it.
At a dinner in Warsaw with the mayor and the foreign minister, Danon expressed appreciation for Poland’s support of Israel at the UN, but said that Poland is not doing enough to combat antisemitism and should be taking stronger action.
In Israel, the UN ambassadors will be going to the Golan Heights to see for themselves what the situation is and the vulnerability of Syria and Lebanon in terms of Iran-sponsored terror.
Despite his many frustrations with the UN, Danon remains optimistic about “Israel’s place in the world today.”
Israel currently enjoys relations with 160 countries, with more on the way, he said, alluding to countries in the region which use Israeli technology, but are not yet prepared to openly admit to this.