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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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‘Sometimes We Forget That We’re A Sovereign State’: An Interview with MK Danny Danon

MK Danny Danon

MK Danny Danon

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“I think it’s about time that we on the Right say what we think and not always be on the defense when people raise the issue of a two-state solution,” MK Danny Danon told The Jewish Press.

Danon, 41, deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset and chairman of World Likud, published his first book last month, Israel: The Will to Prevail (published by Palgrave Macmillan). In it, he outlines his vision for Israel’s future while also reviewing historical, religious, political, legal, and contemporary factors crucial for understanding modern-day Israel.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with him about his new book, among other issues.

The Jewish Press: In Israel: The Will to Prevail, you propose not a two-state but a three-state solution to solve Israel’s ongoing security problems. What is the three-state solution?

Danon: The three-state solution consists of Israel, Jordan and Egypt. It calls for the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria to be linked to Jordan, and the Palestinians living in Gaza to be linked to Egypt. Already today you see the linkage between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Hamas regime in Gaza.

Why must the Palestinians be linked to anyone? Why can’t matters continue as they are today?

Because eventually I believe there should be a separation [between Jews and Palestinians]. So, for example, if the Palestinians want to fly, they should do so from Amman, Jordan, not from Ben Gurion Airport.

They need some kind of connection with an independent country – for exports and imports, for flying, for currency, etc. I’m pushing, though, that the connection not be with Israel but with Jordan and Egypt.

As part of your vision for Israel’s future that you lay out in your book, you advocate that Israel annex a huge chunk of the West Bank.

Yes, that’s something I’m already promoting now. I want to apply Israeli sovereignty over all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. In the long run, I think we should also apply sovereignty over all the vacant land in Judea and Samaria. My idea is to annex the majority of the land without the majority of the Palestinian population.

Is there any chance of the Knesset approving such an annexation plan?

Yes, I think it’s feasible. It’s not going to be easy, but last year, for example, the majority of [Likud Knesset members agreed] that if there is a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in the UN, Israel will unilaterally annex the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

So we need to think about the timing, but I think it is feasible.

Netanyahu, however, is not in favor of annexing the West Bank.

He is not there yet, but there are people who can influence him. I always stress to Netanyahu that Menachem Begin had the courage to make a bold decision when he decided to annex the Golan Heights [in 1981 despite international disapproval].

But the condemnations Israel will receive for annexing parts of the West Bank will surely be worse than those that followed the Golan Heights annexation.

Yes, but it will not last forever.

In the book you state that the Arabs must recognize Israel’s “right to exist.” Why is that important? Who cares what the Arabs recognize? As long as they don’t launch wars, why should anyone care whether they recognize Israel? It almost seems silly to run after someone, saying, “Please recognize me!”

I think when we’re dealing with the pressure against Israel, you have to stress very clearly that [the conflict] is not about terms of conditions or negotiations. It’s much more basic. It’s that we have no viable partner. And one of the issues to make this point is that we’re dealing with a terrorist organization that doesn’t even recognize us. Furthermore, they’re not talking about the ‘67 lines but the ‘48 lines.

I think when you add these things together, you understand that it’s a non-starter. There’s no one to speak with – and it has nothing to do with the prime minister or the settlements or anything else.

One of the themes in your book is that Israel must always act in its best interests even if that means disregarding or angering the U.S. Can you elaborate?

I think we have to make decisions according to what is good for us. Even though we – Israel and the U.S. – are strong allies and share the same values and enemies, when it comes to decisions, we have to do what’s good for us, no matter what.

I give two examples in the book. The first one is the Yom Kippur War. Golda Meir was afraid to [launch a preemptive strike against Egypt] because she was afraid of Henry Kissinger. We paid a very heavy price because of that. The second example is Prime Minister Begin who decided to attack the Iraqi nuclear reactor even though he knew he wouldn’t have the support of the U.S. at that time.

In the book, I also touch on the issue of President Obama pushing the prime minister for a settlement freeze and a two-state solution. I think at the beginning Netanyahu made a mistake, trying to appease President Obama. Afterwards, though, he stood on principle and told him, “No, we cannot do this.”

Israelis always seem terribly concerned with what the U.S. thinks of it and its policies. Why?

I think because we have many enemies and the U.S. is a strong ally that supports Israel in the UN and on many other occasions. Sometimes, though, we forget that we’re a sovereign state. [Sometimes, it’s important] to say, “Yes, we love the U.S., but we’re not the U.S.” We have different interests. And when it comes to a conflict of interests, we have to do what’s good for us.

In that vein, why is Israel currently asking the U.S. to bomb Iran? Isn’t Iran really much more Israel’s problem than the U.S.’s?

I don’t think we’re asking America to bomb Iran, I think that we’re expecting to see a joint effort of the democracies around the world united against this threat. And we expect to see the leadership coming from Washington.

Iran is an immediate threat to Israel. But eventually it will be a threat also to America and Europe. Nobody can guarantee that [Iran’s nuclear] technology will only be used against Jews. It’s a global threat, and that’s one thing we are trying to convince the rest of the world [about].

Why? If America or Europe doesn’t see matters in this light, let Israel bomb Iran itself. Why is it important for it to convince others to join it?

Because it’s not an easy operation, and I think it will be much more effective if other forces are involved.

In media articles about Moshe Feiglin – head of the far-right Manhigut Yehudit organization – your name occasionally pops up. What do you think of Feiglin?

I just met him two days ago, and I wish him success in his race in the upcoming elections.

Feiglin has many friends but also many enemies. Which category would you place yourself in?

I would put myself as his friend, but that doesn’t mean I accept all of his ideas. He has his ideas, and I have my ideas. But I think that there is a place in the Likud for his ideas, especially when you have people like Dan Meridor in the Likud.

Feiglin’s stated goal is to become prime minister. Supposing he attained this goal, would you be pleased?

Well, I wish him success on becoming a member of Knesset; I think that will be a start. One of the main things of the Likud is that it’s a democracy. So if he will be able to convince the majority of Likud members [to elect him head of Likud, fine]. But I think it’s too early to discuss it.

Do you have ambitions to become prime minister?

I think everybody in politics needs ambition. Ariel Sharon, whom I was close to before the Disengagement, once told me that politics is like a pyramid – every MK wants to become a minister and every minister wants to become prime minister. I am in this game. I am in my first term as an MK and I hope to move up to a minister position.

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About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.


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