Turtle Bay Showdown
Danon says Israel is ‘not celebrating’ Palestinian failure at U.N.
Israel's mission at the UN
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to visit Jerusalem with a “message of hope” rather than wasting “his energy and time” traveling to New York to reject President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan.
Diplomatic failure: Abbas is expected to address a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday. On Monday, the Palestinians announced that they have withdrawn their request to hold an immediate vote at the U.N. Security Council after even the watered-down resolution, that omitted a condemnation of Trump’s Mideast peace plan, failed to garner international support. Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denied that the resolution motion was shelved, but acknowledged that the vote was delayed.
Counter-effort: During a media briefing on Monday, Danon told reporters that his remarks at the U.N. will focus on the future, urging the Palestinians to drop the arguments of the past and engage with Israelis in good faith on the issues detailed in the U.S. framework. “It is easy to play the blame game, but we have to look at the future,” Danon said. “At the end of the day, it has to be a bilateral effort between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And it is important that [Abbas] gets the message that — instead of coming to New York — he should come to Jerusalem, or the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] can travel to Ramallah” to restart negotiations.
Open eyes: The Israeli diplomat didn’t celebrate the Palestinian Authority’s failure to garner support for their initiative. “For us, a victory would be when Abbas will enter negotiations, when we have a peace treaty signed,” Danon told Jewish Insider. “There is nothing to celebrate right now.”
Not the time: Danon called former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s choice to appear at a joint conference with Abbas in New York on Tuesday “unfortunate.” He pointed out that Abbas has yet to respond to Olmert’s generous offer in 2008, and also mentioned the recent terror attacks in Israel as bad timing on behalf of the former premier. “I think it is shameful that he would be standing with President Abbas at such a time,” Danon said.
Bipartisanship on hold: Asked if he’s disappointed that the Trump peace plan, described in Israel as a “historic” achievement for Israel’s security interests, failed to get bipartisan support in the U.S., Danon told JI that he never expected otherwise. “I think it is very hard to get bipartisan support for anything today in the U.S.,” he explained. “When I speak to colleagues from both parties, I tell them that we expect them to look at what is good for the stability of the region and put aside the politics. But it is very hard to say it when you have elections coming up in the U.S.”
Danon on U.S.-Israel relations: Danon stressed that he does see bipartisan support for Israel, pointing to the upcoming AIPAC annual policy conference that is always attended by both Republican and Democratic leaders. “I think when you look at the majorities of both parties, we have strong support for Israel and we are grateful for that. And for us, it is important that it does not become a partisan issue.” With regards to Israel possibly moving towards annexation of the West Bank, Danon said that it would not affect relations with a future Democratic administration because time is not on the Palestinians’ side, “and if the Palestinians are not willing to negotiate, it will become a reality without them,” no matter who occupies the White House.
Danon on the Israeli political situation: “The polls are showing that the results will be similar [to the past two election outcomes]. Technically, when you look at our [Knesset laws], it can go on and on. But I hope that will not be the case. We do have a functioning government, but in terms of the economy, the budget and foreign relations, it is not healthy for Israel to continue with an interim government. I think it is important that the public get out to vote and [I hope] there will be a clear winner in the March 2nd election.”
Eye on the future: Danon told JI that he expects to return to Israel and become “very involved” in politics when his extended term comes to an end in May. “But for that, we need to have a government, and hopefully we will have one in the summer.” He quipped that former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Nikki Haley joked to him that she got the “shortest sentence at the U.N. — two years. And I said, ‘I got the longest one — for five years.” Danon said he promised Netanyahu that he will not challenge him for the Likud party leadership as long as he is in power. But he maintained that he gained plenty of diplomatic experience during his tenure, “and I intend to take that experience into Israeli public life.” Danon said his role models are three former U.N. ambassadors: Chaim Herzog, who became president of the state of Israel, Abba Eban, who later served as foreign minister, and Benjamin Netanyahu, who is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.