Rein in the Maverick Minister

Danny Danon’s statements have caused real damage to the government’s image and undermine the legitimacy of the demands it is raising in peace talks.

“Two decades after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat stood on the White House lawn with President Bill Clinton, Israelis and Palestinians are again in the midst of the umpteenth round of negotiations. Despite these efforts, true peace seems as distant as it did before the secret talks in Oslo were revealed to the world ... We must end this farce by announcing the immediate suspension of the accords.”

The above statements aren’t from an article written by some MK from the opposition benches or an op-ed writer sharing his thoughts with his readers via a column or a blog. They are taken from a New York Times op-ed written by the deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, in which he unveiled his gloomy assessment of the diplomatic negotiations now being conducted by the government of which he is a member, as well as his reservations about Israel’s partner in these talks – the Palestinian Authority. With regard to the latter, he asserted unequivocally that “The PLO, and later the Palestinian Authority, never truly accepted that Israel, as the national state and homeland of the Jewish people, was here to stay. No amount of impressive ceremonies, cosmetic changes to the PLO charter and Palestinian doublespeak ... was able to change this grim fact.”

This isn’t the first time Danon has spoken out publicly against the government’s position on diplomatic negotiations. In June, Danon gave an interview to the Times of Israel in which he asserted that the government isn’t committed to the idea of two states, and if an agreement based on this idea were brought to a vote, the government would reject it. In that same interview, Danon said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was calling for a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians only because he knows no agreement will ever be reached with them.

It’s Danon’s right, and even his duty, to voice his opinions during discussions around the cabinet table or in other forums to which he belongs by virtue of his job. But public expressions of these opinions, like the op-ed he published in the New York Times, show that he hasn’t internalized the change in his status. No longer is he a junior Knesset member who wins headlines by means of unrestrained outbursts, but a deputy minister in a government with a defined policy, whose official position calls for conducting diplomatic negotiations to achieve a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Danon’s statements have caused real damage to the government’s image and undermine the legitimacy of the demands it is raising in the talks. The prime minister must condemn his deputy defense minister’s remarks and call him to order. For if he chooses to let these statements pass in silence, it will be interpreted – both in Israel and worldwide – as consent.