(photo credit: courtesy)
On the eve of a four-day visit to the United States, hawkish Likud MK Danny Danon on Monday launched a blistering assault on President Barack Obama's Middle East policies, declaring that he would give Obama "a failing grade" for his first year in office.
"I would give Obama an 'F' for serious lack of knowledge or understanding on topics related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said Danon, speaking to The Jerusalem Post ahead of his US trip.
A longtime fierce critic of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's more conciliatory policies toward the Palestinian Authority, the Likud freshman turned his rhetoric on Obama, and promised to use his US visit to urge Obama to ease the pressure on Israel.
"His serious error during his Fox News interview in China, in which he called to freeze construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, unified the Israeli public around Netanyahu's leadership while weakening Obama's position in Israeli public opinion," Danon asserted. "Even [Kadima opposition Leader] Tzipi Livni was forced to defend our rights to Gilo."
Israeli public opinion, said Danon, should matter to Obama.
"Anyone who wants to be a fair moderator must enjoy the trust of both sides. In the past, the Arab side argued that the Americans are prejudiced in favor of Israel, but now we see that Israelis do not believe that Obama is a fair negotiator, and yet he still has not garnered the faith of the Arabs either. As a result, we see the difficulties in even initiating negotiations between the sides."
The president had also proved wanting on Iran, Danon continued.
"He promised that by the end of the year, he would publish his opinion on Iran. The year is over and the only threats that have been heard are regarding Israel."
Without action, including "significant sanctions," Danon warned, Obama's statements would be rendered "insignificant."
Danon said he would spending most of his time in New York, meeting with Jewish organizational leaders as well as with Democratic donors and candidates in the upcoming congressional elections. He said that "the goal of the meetings is to pass on messages that the guilt for the failure of peace doesn't lie in the hands of the Israeli government and that the pressure placed by Washington on the government and especially on the PM is not the right direction."
The Americans should internalize that Israel "has no real partner," Danon said. But "instead of recognizing the reality, the government in Washington is making the Israeli government give in on significant topics, when it is clear that the government doesn't get anything from the other side."
Danon said he would encourage Democratic candidates to express their stance on Israel "even if they are members of Obama's party."
He said he hoped that pressure from donors and members of Congress could help enable "decision makers to understand that as long as there is no real partner, American pressure just strengthens Hamas and other supporters of terror."
The freshman Likud MK, who has already spoken out against his party chairman's recognition of "two states for two peoples" and against the 10-month settlement building freeze, emphasized that he was not going to the United States to deliver official messages from Jerusalem.
"I am passing along what I think, and it's not necessarily in coordination with the prime minister."
Nevertheless, he said, "I think that the prime minister also understands the importance of expressing these positions, which represent large parts of the population, if not the majority of the Israeli public."
Danon emphasized that his stance on the Obama administration was not a reflection of anti-American sentiment, but rather a response to American policy.
"I think that if the president of the United States tells Jews not to build in Jerusalem, and his representatives send threatening messages, the message that we need to be very clear in our response. We love the American people. We have a brave and longstanding alliance, but when there is a policy that is not correct, and that could harm our security interests, we must say so clearly."