Danny Danon: Extending the arms embargo against Iran is urgent

In an interview to The Jerusalem Post, the outgoing ambassador spoke about his highest and lowest points, as well as what he believes is important when dealing with Iran.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon addresses the UN General Assembly in New York in 2018.  (photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon addresses the UN General Assembly in New York in 2018.
(photo credit: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - Danny Danon, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the UN, made his return to Israel several weeks ago after finishing his duties. Once he was done with his quarantine period, he reflected on his time at the UN. After which he warned that: “extending the arms embargo on Iran is the most urgent task.”
“Wherever there is a danger to Israel, you can recognize the Iranian fingerprints,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “The regime spends $7 billion annually on spreading terrorism. We are thankful for the US leadership in extending the arms embargo, and we are hoping to see more countries to join us in promoting this measure at the UN.”
“The arms embargo is the most urgent measure, but the entire Iranian proxy operation is a challenge,” he noted. “They are not following the JCPOA, and, at the same time, they are trying to take advantage of the sanction relief that this agreement is providing for them. I believe that other countries are starting to understand this danger.”
Danon’s work has also been severely affected by COVID-19 in recent months. “A large portion of a diplomat’s job deals with personal interactions,” he said. “You attend events, receptions, and you meet people in order to promote your ideas and exchange information. Now, everything is done virtually, and it hurts the ability to advance new causes. We can push some technical issues, but nothing meaningful.”
Though his work was not the only one interrupted by COVID-19, as the virus disrupted the Palestinians’ efforts in the UN as well. “They wanted the general assembly to condemn Israel around the discussions of applying sovereignty, but the general assembly couldn't meet, only resolutions in consensus are being discussed nowadays. So they couldn’t do it,” the outgoing ambassador noted.
Danon left New York without saying goodbye to his friends and colleagues in person due to the coronavirus. Instead, his farewells were done through Zoom. “I hope this reality will change soon,” he said.
“These last few months have been challenging,” he continued. “The city became the world epicenter of the virus. Simple, everyday tasks suddenly became impossible. We were there with three children, far from home, and it wasn’t easy. But I got a chance to spend more time with my kids. The asked me so many times to play with them, and now I had the time to do it. I got to walk my dog; From a family perspective, we got closer. The last few months were like army training when the last mile is the most challenging one.”
Danon also spoke about phone calls he received from family members during his time there: “When you look out the window and see a hospital being built, it is not a pleasant situation to be in. You understand that this pandemic is on a massive scale. We followed the guidelines, and we're grateful that we're healthy. I finished my quarantine period a few weeks ago, and now I am spending time with my family. I haven’t seen my mother in over a year.”
Reflecting on his time as the ambassador, he said that the lowest point throughout his time there was Security Council resolution 2334, made during the final days of the Obama administration.
“I spent a week in discussions with the Russian ambassador and other ambassadors to try to block the resolution,” he recalls. “I knew that the US is not with us on this, because they wouldn’t take my calls. Ambassador Samantha Power told me shortly before the vote that President Obama decided to abstain. I said to her that it’s a shameful resolution and that it is very unfortunate they won’t veto it. I added that this is what people will remember for Obama and his team from his years at the White House.”
He told the Post that he had to prepare two different speeches. One, to be used if the US were to use its veto power, and the other, in case they didn't. “I was there alone,” he continued. “Usually, the US and Israel are together in these kinds of discussions. One ambassador told me that he is very sorry and that he wanted to abstain, but the US pressured him to vote in favor of this resolution. I told him that it is going to change soon because there is a new president with a new approach.”
Nevertheless, he says that he doesn’t feel like Israel is isolated in the UN. “I reject the arguments about international isolation. We have relationships with over 160 countries all over the world. We are working with many countries without publicizing it. During my tenure, we brought over 100 ambassadors to Israel.”
Danon elaborated that he believes that the height of his time there was when he was elected as head of the UN's Legal Committee, a decision supported by 109 other countries.
“It was a historic moment because it was the first time that an Israeli is elected to chair a committee at the UN,” he added.
Danon did not give an answer in regards to his future plans but he did say that he will “definitely be involved in public life.”