By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
It was a brilliant move by Prime Minister Netanyahu to appoint Danny Danon as Israel’s next permanent representative at the United Nations. Not that it’ll do the country any good there, but it’ll get rid of a troublemaker within Netanyahu’s Likud – the man who until now has held important positions in the party, even after he had been fired as deputy defense minister for criticizing Netanyahu. Sending him now into the wilderness of Manhattan may make room for a more congenial replacement in the Knesset.
Danon is one of the few who has challenged Netanyahu for the top job by standing against him at the last internal party elections. He must have known that he wouldn’t win, but he made a point that no doubt wasn’t lost on the prime minister. The appointment may, therefore, be more of a punishment than a reward.
Danon is a right-winger who openly opposes a Palestinian state and advocates the annexation of at least part of the West Bank. The prime minister has enough right-wing hotheads among his coalition partners not to need one within his own camp.
It’s also possible that, like so many Israelis, Netanyahu has given up on the United Nations and, therefore, perhaps thinks that it doesn’t matter who represents the country in that consistently hostile environment. Though the man whom Danon is to succeed, Ron Prosor, is a seasoned diplomat who has done as well as any Israeli representative can do at the UN, perhaps the prime minister is now ready to inflict the nuisance that has interfered in his government on the international body.
Some three months ago I reported on a talk in Jerusalem by Professor Stephen Toope, the director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. According to this international lawyer, friend of Israel and expert on the United Nations, the Israeli representative there, should have three things in mind:
- Grin and bear the barrage of unjustified anti-Israel resolutions because being offended isn’t in Israel’s interest.
- Stay in close touch with Israel friends at the United Nations – and there’re many of those – and be able to take their constructive criticism.
- Concentrate on the work of the Security Council and those members who may support Israel.
Based on his record, it’s difficult to imagine that Danon will heed any of this advice. Instead, what we can expect from him may be embarrassment, even by UN standards. An Abba Eban he ain’t – neither in the use of the English language nor in his views on the place and future of Israel in the world.
On the other hand, Danon is young (only 44) who seems to want to climb the political ladder, so perhaps he’ll adapt once he realizes that though his hard-line may get considerable support at home, it won’t cut much ice abroad. On his way of wanting to be prime minister one day, he may settle for now eying the post as foreign minister.
Avigdor Lieberman, the former inept incumbent of that office and now the prime minister’s most outspoken critic, said recently that the foreign ministry after his departure has been the victim of a pogrom (a strange term in this context, but it did catch the headlines). Which prompts the question: Is Danon’s appointment also Netanyahu’s cynical way of responding to Lieberman’s strictures?