The battle for the White House is heating up, and the tension and excitement generated by this close race is on a steep, upward trajectory. To no one’s surprise, Israel has also been a hot topic during the election campaign. As we enter the final stretch of the race, the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has now received a major boost in support of his claims that President Barack Obama has been hostile to Israel in his four years in office. This boost comes in the form of a book authored by an Israeli member of Knesset, which recently hit stores in the U.S.
Initially, MK Danny Danon set out to write a book for American audiences against the establishment of a Palestinian state. But given the timing of the book’s release — just weeks before the U.S. election, with the Democrats and the Republicans in a feverish effort to help their respective candidates win the White House — most of the attention has been focused on excerpts in which Danon scathingly attacks the incumbent president.
“The Obama administration has sent contradictory messages to the Arab leadership, in effect bringing into question the level of its support for Israel,” Danon wrote in the book. “As a result, many Palestinian leaders believe that they can now get their state without offering any concessions of their own.”
The book, which is titled Israel: The Will to Prevail, quickly climbed to the top of the political bestseller list on Amazon. Danon has become a welcome guest on American talk shows. In one whirlwind week, he has jetted in and out of the television studios of the biggest networks in the country. He has dropped by various TV and radio morning shows. He has crisscrossed the country, going from coast to coast as if it were Danon who was running for president. The only difference was that Danon flew coach.
Q: What compelled you to write this book?
“As part of my job as chairman of World Likud, I participate in dozens of hasbara (public diplomacy) events on behalf of Israel. I always hear people ask why we fail to present Israel’s position better. This question always involves people wondering if there is an alternative to the idea of two states.”
“I thought there was a need to present a solution to the conflict on behalf of the nationalist camp, and this solution states principally and clearly that the concept behind the Oslo Accords is a thing of the past. Instead of a two-state solution, we should offer up the three-state solution: Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. These are the only states in our region. Palestine will not be established. Israel will gradually begin to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jewish towns and most of the territory in Judea and Samaria.”
Q: What about the Arab towns?
“The fundamental basis of this idea is maximum territory and minimum Palestinians. They talk about blocs, and I also talk about blocs. Certain blocs will belong to the Kingdom of Jordan, and their size and status will be determined in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. There will be no ties between Judea and Samaria and Gaza, which, by the way, is the situation today. The Arabs of the Gaza Strip will be bound by arrangements with Egypt.”
"Obviously, there will be no willingness to accept this idea, but we first need to convince ourselves. Then we need to convince our partners in the world, and then the governments with which we are negotiating. The Middle East is so dynamic, to the point where the circumstances today are completely different than those of a few years ago. If a few years back I would’ve told people that [deposed Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak will stand trial while lying in bed and locked up in a cage, they would’ve laughed at me."
Q: Still, this isn’t a solution that is easy to implement.
"The solution I am proposing is a long-term one, but it is predicated on the basic understanding that the land-for-peace formula doesn’t work. We are coming up on 20 years since the Oslo Accords, and we have seen the grim results. The unilateral disengagement [from Gaza] brought Hamas to power and enabled a situation whereby missiles are raining down on Israel's south. I believe that the time has come for the nationalist camp to move away from its defensive posture so that it may explain the dangers of a Palestinian state and bring forward its own diplomatic initiative, the basis of which calls for applying sovereignty on most of the territory in Judea and Samaria.”
Q: How do you link this diplomatic idea to the American issue?
“In the book, I give a historical account which proves that whenever Israeli leaders sought to appease an American leader, this turned out to be a mistake. The best example is Golda Meir, whose fear of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger precluded her from enlisting the reservists or launching a pre-emptive strike, an error that eventually cost the lives of thousands of soldiers [during the 1973 Yom Kippur War]. After Egyptian troops had already crossed the Suez Canal, the U.S. State Department sent telegrams to Israel imploring its government to try and exhaust the diplomatic option.”
“On the other hand, in 1981, Menachem Begin made a decision to bomb the nuclear reactor in Iraq. The State of Israel was condemned by the U.N. and the U.S., but it was just 10 years later that the Americans invaded Iraq. The Americans admitted that the decision to attack was a courageous one that prevented the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction. This is the message we have today as well. We are not America. They have a wide margin of error. For us, any mistake could be fatal.”
Hypocrisy and double standards
Q: Your book hit stores in the midst of a tight U.S. election. Weren’t you concerned about the perception that you’re just another foreigner trying to influence a democratic election?
“In the book, there is no mention of the U.S. elections, nor is there an endorsement for a particular candidate, but there is certainly an unequivocal statement which holds that President Obama was not a friend to Israel. I also provide examples: he received a Nobel Peace Prize for forging peace in the Middle East just weeks after he was elected. This was the sin of hubris. This is what pushed him to seek peace no matter what.”
“In his Cairo speech of 2009, he tried to appease the Arab world. Afterward, he called on Israel to return to the ’67 borders, which is an unprecedented step for a president. He whetted the Palestinian appetite to the point where it was impossible for them to rescind their demands. They realized that they were getting what they wanted out of the negotiations without actually negotiating.”
In the book, Danon wrote: “The most egregious mistake made by Obama was that he adopted many of the Palestinian demands and incorporated them into his policy. He acted contrary to his predecessors who maintained their roles as mediators between the two sides.”
Danon’s book is unquestioningly anti-Obama, though he insists that he is not trying to sway American public opinion just before the election.
“There’s no meddling here,” he says. “I’m a proud Zionist and I support the State of Israel. I have friends who are supportive of Israel, including senators and representatives in the House. I make a distinction between the U.S. and Obama. Obama is the one who took sides. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our side.”
Q: You also devote space in your book specifically to the issue of terrorism.
“In the book, I object to Obama's decision to kill [Osama] bin Laden, sarcastically, of course. I remind readers that there was only one world leader who condemned Obama after the assassination – [Hamas Prime Minister] Ismail Haniyeh. In this way I accentuated the U.S.'s hypocrisy: when they fight terror - [targeted killing] is okay, but when we fight the same terror, it's not okay. In any case, I believe that the world is starting to come to its senses on this issue."
Q: The book has sold well in the U.S.
“Israel is an issue that is widely discussed in the U.S. I was interviewed by Fox News as well as by MSNBC, where I appeared on the most popular liberal program that is watched by hardcore Obama supporters. I spoke on the show about Obama’s mistakes and about how he can be accommodating to the Arab world. Look, the conflict between Muslims and Jews has turned into a conflict between Muslims and the entire world.”
Q: Can you give an example?
“As the head of the Knesset lobby which is responsible for finding a solution to the problem of infiltrators, I spoke with the president of South Sudan. He was telling me about his country’s conflict with its neighbor, Sudan. He said the war wasn’t over borders or fuel, but it stemmed from the fact that his neighbors were Muslim while South Sudan was predominantly Christian. Here, too, the conflict is not over borders or Judea and Samaria or Jerusalem; rather it's about the fact that there is a non-Muslim presence here.”
Q: Aside from Jews or other pro-Israel Americans, what other target audience did you have in mind when you wrote the book?
“I know that there are members of the Republican Party who make use of some of the book's messages. It is perfectly legitimate. Whoever supports Israel and is looking for ammunition to use in arguments is welcome to use the book as an aid.”