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Jerusalem — He recalled the run-up to Netanyahu’s 1997 agreement with the Palestinians to pull back Israeli military presence in Hebron, saying: “There was an event in the Knesset, and [then-Likud lawmaker] Benny Begin spoke very nicely about the rights of Jews in Hebron, and at the end of the speech, I asked him, ‘Mr. Begin, what do we do tomorrow, the next move? [Begin said:] ‘I spoke, I did my share,’ and then I realized that in order to make an influence, you need to speak about your rights, about what you believe, and you also need to have the political power to promote your ideas.
“That is the reason I’m active politically in the party and not only speaking and writing books. I do that also, but I understand the importance of political power,” he said.
Danon was a strong opponent of the state’s evacuation last year of Migron, a West Bank settler outpost erected without government authorization on privately owned Palestinian land. He fought against other West Bank evacuations as well. In addition, Danon has promoted various legislative initiatives that critics have decried as anti-democratic, including a law imposing sanctions on Israelis who speak out in support of boycotting settlements.
Nonetheless, he says that he represents not only the Likud base, but also many Israelis who “are skeptical about the peace process, who are skeptical about the issue of a Palestinian state in our backyard, who haven’t forgotten about what happened in [the evacuated Gaza settlements of] Gush Katif.”
Danon wants Israel to annex significant parts of the West Bank, as does the new head of Likud’s ideological committee, Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister.
Despite Danon’s confidence that Likud will block a peace deal, he concedes that he could have a fight on his hands, as a deal on the table would seem tempting to some Likudniks. With “a prime minister endorsing such an accord, it will not be easy, ” Danon said.
Of course, Danon’s barricade plan relies on Netanyahu actually taking any draft peace agreement before the central committee. But couldn’t he short-circuit the committee? This is a simpler scenario than the much discussed possibility of Netanyahu ditching his party and setting up a new one, like Ariel Sharon did to facilitate the 2005 Gaza disengagement.
This is a gray area. There isn’t actually any written clause that Netanyahu would need to take a peace deal to the central committee. After all, the Likud party was established by people who were ideologically opposed to territorial pullbacks and who didn’t dream of formulating clear rules for a scenario in which the party’s leader might back such plans. The trail for clues as to how the process may play out leads to the Tel Aviv law office of Michael Kleiner, president of Likud’s internal court.