Israel's UN Envoy Urges Likud Officials: Press Netanyahu to Extend My Term

Former Likud lawmaker Danny Danon had expected to serve four years in the post, but Netanyahu has been evasive about extending his term

Israeli envoy Danny Danon at the UN Security Council, October 19, 2016.
UN PHOTO

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, has recently asked senior aides of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend his term from three to four years, but received a cool, evasive response, Likud officials said.

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Danon asked several senior party members, some of them close to Netanyahu, to help him persuade the prime minister to extend his term, according to party officials who spoke to the disappointed ambassador.

Danon was appointed to the post in August 2015 and will soon complete two years in office. The cabinet’s decision on his appointment stipulates that he will serve three years, until August 2018, with an option of extending the term for a fourth year.

Likud officials said Danon had believed until a few weeks ago that elections in Israel would be held earlier than scheduled and planned to end his term as soon as Likud primary elections were announced, so that he could return to Israel to run. When he realized elections will be held only in 2019, he asked to extend his term to enable him to run in the Likud primaries, as a UN ambassador rather than as a private citizen, they said.

Danon told people in Likud that when he broached the possibility of extending his term with the prime minister’s aides, their answers were cool and reserved. He said this surprised him because he had received a personal promise from Netanyahu before he left for New York that if he wanted to, his term would be extended to four years.

“Danon said he felt Netanyahu was going to break his promise to him,” a Likud official said.

One Likud official said Danon had hinted to some Knesset members that if they helped to persuade Netanyahu to extend his term, he would enlist his supporters in the party on their behalf when needed.

Danon came to Israel a week ago to accompany the United States’ UN ambassador Nikki Haley on her visit. He met Netanyahu during the latter’s meeting with Haley, but it is not known if the two met again to discuss extending Danon’s term.

One of the main reasons Netanyahu appointed Danon ambassador was to enable him to make changes in his cabinet and to distance Danon, who was seen at the time as part of the rightist opposition in Likud. In July 2014, during the Israel-Gaza conflict, Netanyahu even fired Danon from his post as deputy defense minister, after the latter criticized the prime minister’s performance.

During Danon’s two years in office Netanyahu refrained from praising him publicly — this, in contrast to the many times the prime minister lauded Danon’s predecessor, Ron Prosor, including commending his speeches at the AIPAC convention.

After the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in November 2012 accepting Palestine as an observer sate, Netanyahu called Prosor to praise his speech. “I’m proud of you. You represented Israel’s truth. It was a speech of facts versus Abu Mazen’s venom-dripping speech,” Netanyahu told Prosor, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to the statement issued by the prime minister’s office.

In contrast, after the UN Security Council’s resolution against the settlements was adopted in December 2016, Netanyahu did not laud Danon’s performance. A Foreign Ministry source said Netanyahu even expressed disappointment with Danon’s speech. The prime minister’s aides said Netanyahu hasn’t yet dealt with the possibility of extending Danon’s UN term. Danon himself, his spokesman Elie Bennett and his aide Tomer Cohen have not responded to Haaretz’s repeated requests for a comment over the past three days.