Israel's Iran Debate Comes to America

Two Push Opposing Views at Height of Election Season

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 14, 2012, issue of September 21, 2012.
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That same day, word leaked from Israel that the Obama administration, citing scheduling problems, had turned down a request by Netanyahu to meet with him in New York in late September, when the Israeli leader will be there to address the United Nations. (The White House, noting that Obama will not be in New York that day, denied that the Israeli had ever asked to meet him in Washington).

Danny Danon
getty images
Danny Danon

Political rivals in the United States were quick to pick up on the dispute, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accusing Obama of not doing enough to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Romney also called Iran Obama’s “biggest failure.”

This view was bolstered by Danon, an up-and-coming player in Israel’s right-wing politics. He was promoting his book, “Israel: The Will To Prevail,” which he views as an “unapologetic response” to critics of Israel’s policy regarding the Palestinian conflict, Iran and the United States.

During his talk, Danon laid out his vision of a “three-state solution,” which rejects the idea of an independent Palestinian state in favor of dividing responsibility for the Palestinians among Israel, Jordan and Egypt. It was a tough sell to the members of the largely liberal crowd, many of whom are Jewish, but Danon said he is on a mission to change the discourse between Israel and the international community and that such a change will require time.

“As a representative of the national camp, I felt the need to say, ‘We have an alternative way,’” Danon said in an interview. He used the term “national camp,” which is synonymous in Israel to the right-wing — Likud — settler alliance. “The national camp in Israel has grown, but its views are not represented outside Israel, especially in the United States.” According to the deputy speaker of the Knesset, though most Israelis have already shifted away from the notion of “territory for peace,” when speaking abroad, Israelis feel the need to apologize and stick to the two-state solution model.

While declaring time and again that he does not wish to take sides in the American presidential election, Danon nevertheless used his book and public speeches to describe Obama’s approach to Israel in starkly negative terms. According to Danon, the administration’s latest refusal to set red lines for negotiations with Iran is “further proof that Iran will continue arming itself as the West sits idly by.” Obama, according to Danon, has not been effective in blocking Iran. “You don’t get A’s for effort,” he added.

Would Romney be any different?

“I don’t know, but what I do know is that the current administration made serious mistakes.”

Danon’s open criticism of Obama during election season could be seen as breaking the unwritten rule of not intervening in another country’s politics, but the young lawmaker tried to make clear that he is not endorsing Romney, simply stating his views on Obama. “I don’t see any intervention. The prime minister has been very careful about it,” he said. “What we care about is the good of Israel, not who wins the elections.”


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