(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Had Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog won the March 17 election, there still would have been a significant dispute between US President Barack Obama and Israel, Likud MK Danny Danon said in an interview on Tuesday.
Obama has sparred with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran. But he also criticized a call for Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist, which was a central part of Herzog’s campaign.
“The dispute between Israel and the US on Iran is substantial, and it does not matter who is prime minister,” Danon said. “The dispute might have not have escalated as quickly with Herzog, but it would have happened.”
Danon noted that some of the fiercest criticism of Obama this week came from Zionist Union faction chairman Eitan Cabel, a close Herzog confidant, and that after the Zionist Union criticized Netanyahu’s Iran strategy during the campaign, it has officially supported him since the Iranian nuclear framework was reached last Thursday.
“Obama is trying to market the deal as an achievement, but everyone who asks Israel will be told the truth, that the framework would lead to a nuclear Iran,” Danon said.
“It is wrong to appease Iranians instead of being tough on them.”
But Danon, who is close to many Republican politicians and some Democrats, said he believes “Obama has good intentions” and that he “think[s] the administration respects the results of our democratic election.”
Danon said he was skeptical about Channel 10’s report that the Obama administration had decided to ease up on the Palestinian issue because it did not want to spar with Israel on two issues at once. He said that, for better or worse, the two issues should not be connected, and that he believes pressure on Israel from Washington to make concessions to the Palestinians will continue.
The Likud hawk said he was glad to see Netanyahu shift the party back to some of its core principles during the campaign.
“We got 30 [Knesset] seats for telling the public what we believe in and calling for strengthening Jewish communities while our competition talked about uprooting,” he said. “We received a mandate from the people to continue with this line.”
To that end, Danon opposes a unity government with the Zionist Union and would like to see a coalition of the 67 MKs from the Likud, Kulanu, Bayit Yehudi, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu. Noting that the leaders of Kulanu, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu used to be Likud members, he said he hoped they would return, but they would not be given reserved slots on the Likud’s Knesset candidates list if they did.
“Our partners need to know we got 30 seats, five times more than Yisrael Beytenu and three times more than Kahlon[‘s Kulanu],” he said. “If we accept all their demands, we would head the coalition but would not be able to make the reforms we want to make.”
Danon called for the Likud to keep socioeconomic portfolios such as Construction and Welfare. That would be essential to win back the trust of the voters on issues such as housing and the cost of living, he said.
“The main message we received from the voters is that the support they gave us wasn’t unconditional,” he said. “No excuses. We have to deliver. If we give those posts away, we will pay a price in the next election, because the public wants results on those issues yesterday.”
Danon said he would love to receive a socioeconomic portfolio for himself. His name has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for ambassador to the United Nations, though a source close to Netanyahu said this week that it was unlikely at such a critical time at the world body.
Though Netanyahu fired him from his post as deputy defense minister for insubordination during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, Danon said his relationship with the prime minister has since been healed.
“Since last summer, a lot of rain has fallen in the Jordan and snow has fallen in Jerusalem,” he told The Jerusalem Post
. “We have repaired our ties and have been working well together in full cooperation. I’m optimistic about my place in the 34th Government of Israel.”