MK Danny Danon: We Have a Strong Majority Who do not Believe There Should be a Palestinian State (INTERVIEW Part 4)
One of Israel’s rising political stars, MK Danny Danon is Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s governing Likud party. Visiting the United States to promote his newly published book, Israel: The Will to Prevail, published by Palgrave Macmillan, Danon sat down with The Algemeiner to discuss an array of pressing issues. Subjects covered include President Obama’s relationship with Israel, the Iranian nuclear threat and possible steps that Israel might take, and the recent killing of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya in a violent Islamist attack on the country’s U.S. consulate.
Below is the fourth and final installment of the interview focused on internal Israeli affairs and politics, especially relevant today with Israeli elections scheduled for early next year. Part 1 can be read here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.
AJ: You’re considered one of the young up-and-coming stars in the Knesset. Where do you see yourself in five or ten years’ time?
DD: Well, I think somebody up there decides about where we go and what we do.
AJ: But it helps to have a plan, right?
DD: Well, you know once I worked with Prime Minister Sharon before the disengagement from Gush Katif, and he told me that in politics you have a pyramid, that every MK wants to become a minister, and every minister wants to become a prime minister. He told me, ‘If somebody in our circles of the Knesset tells you that it’s not the case, don’t believe him.’ I think he was right, and I do want to move up the ladder. I’m supporting Prime Minister Netanyahu as the candidate to be the prime minister in the next elections, even though I had difficulties or arguments with him – especially with the decision to freeze building in Judea and Samaria. But I do support him and work with him.
AJ: How would you describe your relationship with Prime Minister Netanyhau? Do you see him as a mentor or someone that you learned from?
DD: I think I learned a lot from him. For example, now I work in hasbara and P.R., and I think he’s excellent in these matters. But I think he appreciates me, because I’m very direct with him. Whatever I tell him in a closed room, he knows that’s my position. I will not go and tell him inside ‘I support you’, and then he will learn that I am doing exactly the opposite. Sometimes I do not agree with him, but I will go and tell him.
For example, he decided to form a unity government with Kadima, with Mofaz, on May 8th of this year. I was the only MK who voted against it at a Likud faction meeting.
AJ: Did you suspect that Kadima might leave?
DD: I did not believe them. I felt it’s a mistake for Likud, for the state of Israel. It was not kosher, and I said it and I voted against it. In the room there were a few ministers who publicly told him it was the right move and that they support him and they voted with him, but ten minutes later they went out and briefed reporters saying it’s suicidal. So I think he appreciated my position. But I told him exactly why I think that. I don’t play games. I think that’s something he really appreciates.
AJ: In your book you outline what some people call the three-state solution. How would you say that your politics differ from someone like Moshe Feiglin? I know he’s being pushed out of the party in a sense, and you appear to be more welcome, but on the face of it you both oppose creating a Palestinian state.
DD: How many people in the party were for the Palestinian state? Last September when Abbas was intending to approach the U.N., (to call for a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence) I submitted a bill in the Knesset that if there would be a declaration, we would annex the Jewish community in Judea and Samaria. I got a majority of the Likud MKs, out of 27 MKs that supported my initiative. We have a strong majority of people who do not believe that there should be a Palestinian state.
On the other hand, yes, Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a speech in Bar Ilan where he said he would consider it, but today you see it’s not the direction that we are going in. Maybe at the beginning we went in a different direction, but today I think we are back on course, and we’re moving on the same path.
AJ: Between you and Feiglin, what are the main differences would you say?
DD: Well, I don’t know Feiglin’s position regarding the long-term. I don’t speak about moving people from their homes in Judea and Samaria – Jews or Palestinians.
AJ: He wants to evict Arabs?
DD: I think – I’m not sure what his long-term goal or vision is. Some people say we should annex Gaza as well. That’s not where I am, but Feiglin is a member of the Likud. He’s very active and has a very strong following. There are many ideas that we work together on.
AJ: If you were prime minister, would you annex Judea and Samaria?
DD: If I would be in a position where I would be able to promote it, I will definitely annex the Jewish communities from Judea and Samaria immediately. The second item would be the vacant land, which I think should also be annexed. But I would not annex the Arab cities that are heavily populated. I think those cities should be in the long run in Judea and Samaria linked with Jordan.
AJ: You would class them as Jordanian refugees?
DD: I don’t want to decide now what the exact status would be. Practically, I do want them to go to Amman not to Tel Aviv or when they want to go to hospital or whatever they will need, they will be linked to Jordan. Even today the language, currency, the education system – it’s already the Jordanian system.
AJ: What if Jordan says ‘We’re not interested?’
DD: Okay, that’s legitimate, but let’s thinks about what’s good for us. We have tried a two-state solution.
AJ: But you still can’t attach them to Jordan if Jordan won’t give them papers or whatever?
DD: But look how dynamic everything is in the Middle East. If I would have told you that Mubarak would be in a cage in Cairo two years ago, you’d have told me, ‘You’re not connected to reality.’ Things are moving and changing. We need to think where we want to go and push in that direction.
AJ: Do you think Israelis are coming around to this understanding? It seems that if you look 10, 20 years ago to Oslo, and even more recently, there was a lot more talk in Israel of creating a Palestinian state. Now it seems to be on the back burner. How long do you think it’ll take before there’s no way that something like this could be feasible?
DD: First of all, you see the trend, and the trend is moving to the center right. That’s happened because of the disengagement. I call it a process of awakening. I was for the Jewish communities, so-called settlements, and the left was saying ‘land for peace.’ Everyone in the middle was confused. Every four years they wanted something else –Rabin, Netanyahu, Sharon.
But after the disengagement, people realized that it’s not about land for peace. We gave our land; we took the communities out. We did everything, and we got missiles. Today there is a process of awakening, and I think that the people are moving to my direction.
AJ: So do you think it’ll continue in that direction?
DD: Yes. Yes, because the reality on the ground, I think will continue to prove that it’s not about us giving land. It’s about finding a viable partner.
AJ: Do you feel that your personal support is growing?
DD: I cannot tell you. I have a strong following who support me and stand with me day and night, and there are other people who really are not happy about me.
I can refer you to a few articles in Haaretz, very nasty ones, where they say that I’m the new McCarthy of Israel, dangerous to democracy. So people don’t ignore me, but I can tell you that I care. It says at the end of the Megilla, that even Mordechai was only welcomed by the majority of his brothers. So I’m not busy trying to satisfy everybody all the time. I say what I think, what I believe, and I do get support for that.
I don’t have internal polls. Also, it’s different between the Likud members who vote for me in the primaries and within the general public. But I can tell you that within the Likud I feel without getting into names, that if you compare me to other ministers, I think I represent more the idea of the Likud members compared to other ministers.