Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said on Wednesday that he will step down from his position if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approves the release of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for March 28.
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Danon, a member of Likud's righ-wing faction, delivered the ultimatum to Netanyahu in a letter. The release is the last of four scheduled as part of negotiations, being led by United States Secretary of State John Kerry, on a framework agreement outlining a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday that he expected Israel to go ahead with the release. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that the release would be conditional on reaching a framework agreement.
“Over the last few weeks, Abu Mazen’s [a nickname for Abbas] true colors have been revealed, and it's clear that nothing will come of these negotiations. I will not sit in a government that releases terrorists from prison in exchange for Tzipi Livni’s fantasies. There is a limit as to how much we can be made suckers in exchange for putting smiles on the faces of Livni and [chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb] Erekat,” Danon said. “I will not be part of this executive branch if it will condone and take further steps toward releasing prisoners … the day that the next Palestinian murderer takes his first steps out of jail, I will send a resignation letter, effectively stepping down from my position as deputy defense minister of Israel."
Likud associates estimate that Danon’s move is tactical and meant to strengthen his position ahead of the debate between he and Netanyahu at the upcoming the Likud summit, set for three days after the planned prisoner release.
“It’s doubtful if Netanyahu is bothered by this threat. He could care less about Danon and mostly gave him the job to shut him up and prevent him from stirring things up within the Likud camp. But Danon has been regularly acting against Netanyahu anyway,” said a Likud member. "This move is meant to hamstring Netanyahu ahead of the Likud summit, so that Danon can garner support for two significant moves: a debate on Kerry’s outline and a decision on splitting up the Likud.”