Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint Science, Technology and Space Minister Danny Danon as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, subject to approval by the cabinet. Danon, considered prominent in the right wing of the Likud, vigorously opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state and supports the annexation of most of the West Bank to Israel. He has sharply criticized United States President Barack Obama on numerous occasions.
The prime minister’s bureau said that Netanyahu decided to appoint Danon to the post in light of the importance of the UN at this time. “I’m convinced that Danny Danon will struggle with all his might to present the truth in the international arena,” the prime minister said.
Danon is expected to assume his post at the end of October, after the UN General Assembly winds down. He will replace Ron Prosor, who has served in the post for the last four years.
Sources close to Danon said that the ambassador-designate is aware that he will have to change his conduct. They say that the change already started with his appointment to the cabinet, expressed in a moderation in his tone.
“He knows that as an ambassador he must leave behind his private opinions and represent government policies,” said an associate. “He doesn’t retract his positions or things he’s done and said in the past, but understands that he is now committed to something else.”
Danon, 44, is married with three children, and has been a Knesset member since 2009. For the last nine years he has also served as the head of the “World Likud” movement, responsible for his party’s overseas relations. In the past he was the Jewish Agency’s representative in Florida. Danon has a B.A. in international relations from the Florida International University and an M.A. in public policy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Appointing Danon as UN ambassador resolves several political problems for Netanyahu within his party. Upon his departure Danon will vacate a seat at the cabinet table, allowing the prime minister to fulfill promises made to MKs Tzachi Hanegbi and Benny Begin, according to which they would serve as ministers. Danon is also the chairman of the Likud Central Committee, a role in which he led a revolt against Netanyahu more than once, challenging his leadership. With Danon’s move to New York Netanyahu can push for replacing him with someone more convenient.
During the previous government Danon served as deputy defense minister and was one of the most oppositional elements to Netanyahu within Likud. Danon was one of the leaders of the most extreme right-wing line in the party, attacking Netanyahu and accusing him of pursuing a “leftist” agenda, both in his negotiations with the Palestinians and during the Gaza war last summer. Netanyahu fired Danon during that war following Danon’s criticism.
In 2009, after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech in which he agreed to a two-state solution, Danon declared that Likud is not bound by these words. In 2013 Danon said that he and the majority of Likud ministers oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state despite Netanyahu’s declarations and support for a two-state solution. Over the last few years Danon has repeatedly expressed support for annexing settlements and most of the West Bank.
In recent years he was the Knesset member who lashed out at Obama most harshly. He forged political alliances with the most extreme elements on the conservative right wing of the Republican Party in the U.S., notably with Texas Governor Rick Perry.
After the UN General Assembly meeting in 2011, Danon and Perry held a joint press conference in which they expressed their objection to the establishment of a Palestinian state, sharply attacking Obama while defining his Middle East polices as dangerous, nave and wrong. At the same conference Danon called on Obama to desist from his “policy of groveling before the Palestinians.”
The Zionist Union responded to Danon’s appointment by saying that “this is another nail Bibi is driving into the coffin of Israel’s foreign relations. Houston, we have a problem, The prime minister is behaving like the lowliest job-fixer in Likud, not as a leader for whom Israel’s interests are of foremost concern,” said party sources.