Danon: Interview Part II

LAST WEEK I interviewed Member of Knesset Danny Danon. In the second part of the interview, I asked Danon specifically about the dangers of a Palestinian state, the Prime Minister’s Bar Ilan speech, and about whether that speech affects the Likud’s position on a Palestinian state. We also discussed aliyah, electoral reform, Gilad Shalit, and even the prospect of having Sundays off in Israel.
Danon is scheduled to speak to Likud Anglos in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 [Details on Likud Anglos’ website or on facebook]. For part one of the interview and more background information on Danon, click here.
Some people say that because of what is going on in Egypt Israel has to make a new effort for peace with the Palestinians and that it’s more important than ever that we create a Palestinian state. Is there any credence to that?
Well, those people, they always find an excuse why to create a Palestinian state. I think it’s the contrary. The situation in Egypt only shows us that we should not take steps that are premature. We should not sign any wishful peace plan. Knowing what’s happening today in Gaza with Hamas, we should be very cautious about that. The last thing that we want is another Islamic state in Gaza or in Judea and Samara. It won’t be safe for us to be living here and I think that we understand that it’s not all about what is happening in Israel. What’s happening in Cairo has no connection to what’s happening in Judea and Samaria and Gaza. It shows to the world that there are forces here that are much stronger than whether there will be a Palestinian state or not.
Do you see a Palestinian state as the biggest danger? From things that you’ve said, and I personally believe, a Palestinian state is one of the biggest dangers. Do you think a Palestinian state is the biggest danger or is Iran more important?
I think it is bothering us a lot. We put too much time into the Palestinian track. We have to understand that the real threat is coming from Iran. But we are busy with something that is close to us, but is minor to the real threat. We think if we will deal with a minor issue here. This is not the case. We should deal with the threat from Iran without considering the Palestinians here.
But if a Palestinian state was created, that would be a very big threat to Israel, it would only compound the Iranian threat or other threats. As a member of Likud who has spoken out against a Palestinian state do you see that the establishment of a Palestinian state could threaten Israel existentially or if it was created it wouldn’t be such a big deal?
I am against a Palestinian state period. It is against our will. It is against our interests. I’m not talking about Biblical rights to the land or historical rights, international law. I’m talking about security issues. It will be unsafe for us to live in Israel if God forbid there will be a Palestinian state. You can only imagine what will happen when Ahmadinejad would like to land his airplane in Ramallah to visit his colleagues in the Palestinian Authority or God forbid a Palestinian state. Who will check his airplane? Who will know what is happening there? We cannot allow it.
When you talk about a Palestinian state and you look at the proximity issues one understands it is not viable and it would put us in danger. If I had to choose whether to deal with the international issues we are dealing with in the UN or the EU or to put the people of Israel in danger I would choose to deal with those organizations. I prefer to deal with another Goldstone Report than to put the people of Sderot in shelters for a few months like it used to be. That is the main issue. If we have to choose between what is good for us or to satisfy our friends and colleagues, I choose to do what is good for our people.
What about the Prime Minister’s Bar Ilan speech, where he suggested a demilitarized Palestinian state? That’s goes back to what we were saying before about the Likud. What do you think about this proposal of a demilitarized Palestinian state and how does that affect the character of the Likud? Do you think that that gives credence to those who say the Likud is no longer the national camp’s party?
I would like to quote what Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote in his own book, about a demilitarized state. There is no such a thing. It is a danger for Israel.
You’re talking about “A Place among the Nations,” that book?
Yes. I’m aware of the pressure from the White House, but I don’t think we should even consider the creation of a Palestinian state, this is not the ideology of the Likud. It is not the platform of the Likud. On the contrary, I led the Likud Central Committee last summer, where we voted to support the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. So the party that I represent and the people that voted for us do not support such a motion and I think the Prime Minister knows that. 
You’re the chairman of the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. Can you tell me a bit about any important legislation that has come through the Committee dealing with aliyah, any important reforms?
I’m very happy to be in this position. I’m very involved with the immigration of Ethiopian Jewry. I was the first one to receive the first plane that received in Israel a few weeks ago. I’m very involved in helping the Ethiopians who come to Israel. We expect seven thousand Jews to come in the next three years. I am also very involved in helping those people who come from the Russia, U.S. France., South America. I think the essence of Zionism is bringing Jews to Israel.
I believe that Natan Sharansky, shortly after he took over as the head of the Jewish Agency, announced that the Agency would switch its focus from aliyah to building ties with the Diaspora ties. Do you think this is a good idea? Is it just a semantic change?
I hope it is just a semantic change. I spoke with Natan Sharansky when he appeared before my committee two months ago. He said that activities promoting aliyah will not be affected. I want to see more olim coming to Israel. We have 19,000 Jews coming to Israel every year. I want to see 90,000 Jews coming every year. When I see the olim hear – it is hard in the first year, sometimes it takes a few months or a few years [to adapt] – but I see them here, the families, and I can assure the best place to bring up Jewish children, is here in Israel.
Something that concerns olim from English speaking countries is Israel’s electoral system. Israel’s system, to put it mildly, is very unique. It seems it lends itself to instability. With all the parties, the maneuvering, it almost seems they are not accountable to the people. Are there any reforms you would like to see? Specifically what about the idea of district-based elections, which most democracies have, where a candidate runs in a district, against one other person, or even a few other people, but whoever wins gets the seat in the parliament, whereas here people are voting for parties instead of people?
I think every change we are making we have to do it gradually; we cannot do it in one shot. We have too many parties. I look at the time the Prime Minister is spending to keep the coalition alive. It is insane. You need to run the country. You need to make decisions. You can’t deal with the coalition every day and every vote. I think we have to change the system so we will have less parties, but a few big parties. We should have one party of the national camp, which is Likud. One party for the left, which is Kadima or Labor, and one party for the religious and one for the Arabs. This is the ultimate goal we should look toward. Regarding district elections, we should look into it, but to do it gradually, to start with a percentage and then to move on and on until you’ll have . . .
Like a certain percentage will be district and another will be proportional?
One thing that is always important to bring up is Gilad Shalit. Is there anything you think the government could do more for Gilad Shalit? What do you think about people who say that we have to give back terrorists? How do you balance those two things?
We have to do more. We have one of our own sitting in prison. Last week, I visited a prison for Arab terrorists in the Galilee and I saw the VIP treatment they receive in our jail. One of the bills I am promoting stops the visitation rights to those Hamas terrorists. It’s unacceptable that Gilad Shalit will not get any visits, not from his family, not from the Red Cross, while those terrorists live better than the conditions I had in the army. In terms of food, shopping rights, visitation rights, we have to change it and make it very hard for them to be in our jails.
At the same time I don’t accept the notion that we should obtain the release of Gilad Shalit, no matter the price. When you make decisions it is a matter of what the price will be. I am sure the Prime Minister will know to make the right decision – finding the line of the price we can pay and the line that if we pay above it, we are putting other Jews in danger.
One last question: A short while ago the interior minister announced that he was going to establish a committee to review daylight savings time. One thing I thought when I heard that, as someone who comes from a country where Sundays are a day off, was well that’s great with daylight savings time but wouldn’t it be great if Sundays were a day off? Especially for religious people for whom Friday is not really a day off, since they have rush around for Shabbat and Shabbat is itself not as relaxing because the next day you know you have work and you have to rush around right after Shabbat to prepare and there is no time to relax.
I think it will be great. If you tell my children that they won’t go to school on Sunday they will be very happy. I think we should consider it. But you also have to look at the way it will affect our economy. One thing I want to make very clear is that in Europe the people work less in than the people in the U.S. and Israel, but still they produce more. It shows that sometimes it’s not the amount of time you spend, but the quality of time and the quality of the environment you are working in. I think we should consider that – maybe to work less and be more productive. I say that as someone who works very hard and unfortunately I am not investing enough time with my family. Thank God we have the Shabbat. I think it can be a very good idea.
I am sure you’re wife will be very happy to hear you admit that you don’t spend enough time with the family.
Alright. Thank you very much
Thank you very much.
For part one of the interview click here.