Thursday, January 21, 2010

Larry Gordon talks US-Israel policy with Likud MK Danny Danon

(Via talk radio host Marc Levin said the other night of President Barack Obama that it seems that everything Mr. Obama touches turns to garbage. Actually, his description was a bit cruder and employed a more specifically defined term. In the aftermath of the Democratic loss this week in Massachusetts in the race to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy in the Senate, it looks like the message that U.S. citizens are sending to Mr. Obama’s Washington is that we are not interested in his version of America’s future.

Interestingly enough, a member of the Israeli Knesset and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, MK Danny Danon, seems to feel the same way that many of us do. Mr. Danon is in the U.S. this week talking with Jewish groups about exactly that—the current U.S. attitude and policy toward Israel. We caught up with Mr. Danon as he traveled between speaking engagements in New York on Tuesday.

Part of Mr. Danon’s stay in the U.S. is being devoted to meetings with Democratic members of Congress—many of whom are longtime advocates and strong supporters of Israel. His goal is to encourage them to speak out about Mr. Obama’s attitude and actions when it comes to U.S.–Israel policy.

“I believe that for one year as president, Mr. Obama has already made too many mistakes,” Mr. Danon told me on Tuesday. Danon added that among those mistakes are the ideas enunciated by the president that building should not go forward in places like Gilo and that there should not be any building taking place in Jerusalem.

I asked Mr. Danon why Prime Minister Netanyahu has been so accommodating to President Obama, first expressing his support for a two-state solution and then implementing a ten-month building freeze in Judea and Samaria, all the while enduring criticism from members of his own party and without reciprocity from the other side.

“The prime minister feels strongly about demonstrating to Mr. Obama that at this point in time we do not have a peace partner,” said Danon. He said that emissaries of the Obama administration insisted time and again that all Israel has to do is give a little more in order to bring Abu Mazen and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. That’s why, he explained, Bibi entered into those commitments.

As we spoke, it was a few hours before the polls were to close in Massachusetts, although all political polling had already indicated that the Republican/independent candidate, Scott Brown, would beat out the Democrat, Martha Coakley, in the race to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy. “It’s an important contest on many levels,” said Mr. Danon. “A Republican victory will hopefully impact on the relentless pressure that Obama applies to Israel,” he said. “This outcome will show that Obama is not a strong president.”

I asked Mr. Danon about what seemed like similar pressure brought to bear in the past by Republican presidents. After all, there was the Rogers Plan under President Nixon; Ronald Reagan proposed his plan in 1982; George H. W. Bush frequently offered blistering criticism of Israel’s settlement policy; and George W. Bush introduced the idea of a two-state solution into the official American diplomatic lexicon.

“None of that pressure or criticism of Israel was anything like what Obama has been trying to do,” said Danon. “This is a one-sided administration that only applies pressure on Israel,” he said. “Israel since 1993 has signed fifteen agreements with the Palestinians—and not one has been fulfilled by their side.” He added that he hopes that this will now let up and Democrats in Congress begin to reassess their relationship with the president and view it from the perspective of the 2010 midterm elections, when all members of the House of Representatives and 36 senators will face elections.