Trending Topics:

Just as Dermer turned the White House into a diplomatic battlefield, Danon will do the same at the UN

News
on 21 Comments

The appointment by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of one of his most hawkish and outspoken rivals as Israel’s new ambassador to the United Nations has prompted widespread consternation.

As one Israeli analyst noted last week, Danny Danon’s appointment amounts to a “cruel joke” on the international community. The new envoy “lacks even the slightest level of finesse and subtlety required of a senior diplomat”.

Last year Netanyahu sacked Danon as deputy defence minister, describing him as too “irresponsible” even by the standards of Israel’s usually anarchic politics. Danon had denounced the prime minister for “leftist feebleness” in his handling of Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer.

Danon is a UN official’s worst nightmare. He is a vocal opponent of a two-state solution and has repeatedly called for the annexation of the West Bank.

Back in 2011, days before the UN General Assembly was due to vote on Palestinian statehood, Danon dismissed the forum as irrelevant: “Even if there will be a vote [in favour], it will be a Facebook state.”

On the face of it, Netanyahu’s timing could not be worse. Danon is to represent Israel as the Palestinians are expected to step up efforts at the UN to entrench recognition of their statehood. He will also be a leading spokesman as Israel tries to fend off war crimes investigations at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The generally accepted explanation is that Netanyahu’s move is driven by domestic, not diplomatic, calculations. Danon is the Israeli right’s poster boy, one who makes the prime minister look too cautious and conciliatory.

The two faced off for the Likud party leadership last November. Danon lost but Netanyahu doubtless fears, as his party and the Israeli public shift ever rightwards, that his rival’s time is coming.

The posting removes Danon as head of the Likud’s powerful central committee, dispatches him to a distant land, and should provide him with opportunities aplenty to self-harm.

But that is not the whole story. Danon’s appointment reveals something more significant about Israel’s deteriorating relations even with its international supporters.

It is hard nowadays to recall that Israel once took the UN very seriously indeed. It had to.

In the decade following 1948, Abba Eban, the country’s foremost diplomat, sought to carve out international recognition and respectability for Israel at the UN.

Eban often used deceit and misdirection – he is reported to have avowed that “diplomats go abroad to lie for their country”. But he never forgot the importance of creating a façade of moral justification for Israel’s actions, even as it launched wars of aggression in 1956 at Suez and again against Egypt in 1967.

Reality caught up with Israel when the UN adopted a resolution in 1975 equating Israel’s official ideology, Zionism, with racism. The resolution was only revoked 16 years later, after the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States emerged as the world’s sole superpower.

Washington arm-twisted the General Assembly with promises that Israel would engage in a peace process with the Palestinians, culminating a short time later in the Oslo Accords.

But as Oslo slowly unravelled, and Israel’s leaders – not least Netanyahu himself – were exposed as the true rejectionists, Israel was forced on to the back foot again.

Today, the consensus in Israel is not only that the UN is a bastion of anti-Israel prejudice but that it is an incubator of global anti-semitism, much of it supposedly spawned by Arab states. Israel is blameless, so this story goes, but the world has fallen under the haters’ spell.

The parting shot of Danon’s predecessor, Ron Prosor, last week was to accuse yet again a leading UN official, Jordan’s Rima Khalaf, of anti-semitism for pointing out the untold misery caused by Israel’s near-decade blockade of Gaza.

Earlier this year, after stepping down as Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren went further, arguing that the plague of anti-semitism had infected even America’s leading Jewish journalists. Their critical coverage of Israel was proof of self-hatred, he claimed.

The need for such desperate diplomacy has grown as Israel’s moral image has tarnished, even for its allies. But the hectoring and intimidation by seasoned diplomats like Prosor and Oren has produced diminishing returns.

Danon’s posting is part of a discernible pattern of recent appointments by Netanyahu that reflect a growing refusal to engage in any kind of recognisable diplomacy. Confrontation is preferred.

The trend started with Netanyahu’s decision in 2009 to let the thuggish Avigdor Lieberman lead the foreign ministry and Israel’s diplomatic corps.

Notably, Netanyahu picked Ron Dermer, a high-profile partisan of the US Republican party, to replace Oren in 2013. Dermer is widely credited with engineering Netanyahu’s provocative address earlier this year to the US Congress, in an undisguised effort to undermine President Barack Obama’s talks with Iran.

Danon’s appointment, like Dermer’s, indicates the extent to which the Israeli right has abandoned any hope of persuading the international community of the rightness of its cause – or even of working within the rules of statecraft.

Just as Dermer has turned Obama’s White House into a diplomatic battlefield, Danon can be expected to barrack, abuse and alienate fellow ambassadors at the UN in New York.

An Israel that has no place for negotiations or compromise wants only to tell the world that it is wrong and that Israelis don’t care what others think. Danon is the right man for that task.

 A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook
About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

21 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    a blah chick on August 25, 2015, 12:24 pm

    “But he never forgot the importance of creating a façade of moral justification for Israel’s actions, even as it launched wars of aggression in 1956 at Suez and again against Egypt in 1967…”

    Having been a news junkie even in my grade school days I dimly recall his faux English gentleman act. Later I developed an image of him sitting in his book lined study, writing his books while wearing a smoking jacket and sipping port.

    “Danon’s posting is part of a discernible pattern of recent appointments by Netanyahu that reflect a growing refusal to engage in any kind of recognisable diplomacy. Confrontation is preferred.”

    And why shouldn’t it be? It’s cheap political theater that plays well with the Jewish folks back home. And there are no ramifications; no matter what they say or do the aid keeps flowing and the politicians keep beating a path to their door.

    • John O
      John O on August 25, 2015, 12:57 pm

      I remember Abba Eban in a very similar way from my own teenage years – suave, the quintessential English Cambridge scholar. Likewise Golda Meir – as American as apple pie. Poor old Yasser Arafat couldn’t even pronounce “Israeli” the way we did. In a less enlightened age, Eban’s and Meir’s overt racism flew easily under the radar because, well, they were not just like us, they were us.

      Israel still likes to have native English speakers spokesmanning the English language airwaves (e.g. Mark Regev and Mickey Rosenfeld) but, happily, the spell has long since worn off.

      • SamT
        SamT on August 25, 2015, 9:20 pm

        Mark Regev, unfortunately does not speak English, it is Strine..

      • talknic
        talknic on August 27, 2015, 7:26 am

        Regev speaks a lingo more like Afrikaans than strine

      • Jasonius Maximus
        Jasonius Maximus on August 31, 2015, 12:39 am

        “Regev speaks a lingo more like Afrikaans than strine .”

        HAHAHAHA! As a South African expat myself, that is exactly what I though when first heard that lying idiot speak! All I could think was, “Heir is ‘n lekker doos!”
        Yet true as nuts, after googling him it turned out he wasn’t a Saffer after all! Straight outta Melbourne in fact. Who woulda thunk it? Had me fooled initially. I can almost make out that Strine twang now if I really listen, but concentrating on anything that smug pillock says for more than 15 seconds just makes me want to smash things.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson on August 25, 2015, 1:01 pm

    RE: As one Israeli analyst noted last week, Danny Danon’s appointment amounts to a “cruel joke” on the international community. The new envoy “lacks even the slightest level of finesse and subtlety required of a senior diplomat”… He is a vocal opponent of a two-state solution and has repeatedly called for the annexation of the West Bank. ~ Jonathan Cook

    MY COMMENT: Per James North, according to Michael Oren’s most recent book, Sheldon Adelson seems to have a big say in picking Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. – http://mondoweiss.net/2015/08/michael-memoir-revelations
    Perhaps he also has a big say in the appointment of Israel’s ambassador to the UN.
    ‘Nuff said?

  3. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson on August 25, 2015, 1:31 pm

    RE: As one Israeli analyst noted last week, Danny Danon’s appointment amounts to a “cruel joke” on the international community. The new envoy “lacks even the slightest level of finesse and subtlety required of a senior diplomat”. ~ Jonathan Cook

    MICHAEL MANN:

    . . . Fascists were determined to overcome all opposition ruthlessly, by will, force, whatever was necessary, without compromise or scruples. This meant in practice forming paramilitaries as well as parties. As collectivists they despised the “amoral individualism” of free market liberalism and “bourgeois democracy,” which neglected the interests of “living communities” and of “the nation as an organic whole.” The nation was essentially one and indivisible, a living and breathing entity, defined as either “integral” or “organic.” . . .

    . . . O’Sullivan (1983: 33–69) notes that fascists hated the “limited” nature of liberal democracy, its imperfect, indirect, and only “representative” (rather than “direct”) form of rule. Liberal democracy tolerates conflicts of interest, “smoke-filled rooms,” “wheeler-dealing,” and “dirty” and “unprincipled” compromises [i.e., diplomacy ~ J.L.D.]. Acceptance of imperfections and compromise is actually the essence of both liberal democracy and social democracy. This reduces the stature of potential “enemies” into mere “opponents” with whom deals might be struck. Liberal and social democracies recognize no monopoly of virtue, no absolute truth. They are antiheroic. I have learned from writing these two books not to expect our democratic politicians to be too principled. We need their instrumentalism, their dirty deals. But fascists differed. They saw politics as unlimited activism to achieve moral absolutes. In Max Weber’s terms, this was “value rationality,” conduct oriented toward the achievement of absolute values, not merely instrumental interests. . .

    SOURCE – http://www.cambridge.org/asia/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521538558&ss=exc

  4. gracie fr
    gracie fr on August 25, 2015, 4:35 pm

    ….Mark Regev on steroids…..

  5. Kay24
    Kay24 on August 25, 2015, 5:12 pm

    Another nail in the Israeli coffin. They are isolating themselves and making themselves even more disliked with such actions. Dermer turned into an American nightmare, Danon will become the nightmare of the international community. Another great decision Booby.

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes on August 25, 2015, 8:40 pm

      Now would be an opportune moment for the UN General Assembly to review Israel’s terms of membership. Since Israel has been given over 60 years to fulfill a condition for membership, the return of Palestinian refugees, and has made no sincere effort to implement that obligation, its membership in the UN and its committees should be suspended, if not terminated. Danon is the perfect face for Israel for that vote.

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on August 25, 2015, 9:05 pm

        Israel has always behaved arrogantly when it came to the UN, and has consistently disregarded any international laws. You are right the UNGA should review Israel’s terms of membership, and decide it does not qualify to join the international community. It is a rogue nation in every sense.

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew on August 25, 2015, 6:38 pm

    The United Nations is inherently hostile territory to Israel at least since 1975. The United States is Israel’s most important ally. Comparing appointing even someone highly objectionable (to me and not only to you) like Danon to the UN post to the appointment of Dermer to the US post is ridiculous. The US post is a major post, the UN post, despite its high visibility is a minor post in comparison.

    • talknic
      talknic on August 25, 2015, 9:13 pm

      yonah fredman “The United Nations is inherently hostile territory to Israel at least since 1975”
      Bullsh*t! No other state has had so many opportunities afforded to it to comply with the law without there EVER being any UN consequences.
      No other state has had so many reminders of its legal obligations without there EVER being any UN consequences.
      No other state has ignored the law for more than half a century, lied at the UNSC for more than half a century without there EVER being any UN consequences.
      Israel has ignored its obligation to have respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

      • johneill
        johneill on August 26, 2015, 12:05 am

        Talknic, you raise good points, essential even. But yonah seems to be talking about Israel’s domestic politics, where good relations with the US is far more important than good relations with the rest of he world – i.e. The UN. But even in the arena of the ‘special relationship’ Netanyahu, shortsightedly, only wants to ally with the right wing. So the relationship is only as special as his ability to engineer US election-time politics.

      • talknic
        talknic on August 26, 2015, 12:20 am

        @ johneill “yonah seems to be talking about Israel’s domestic politics, where good relations with the US is far more important than good relations with the rest of he world “

        Israel’s relationship with the US is maintained in order to secure a UNSC veto vote, without which Israel would become a failed state

  7. CigarGod
    CigarGod on August 26, 2015, 11:17 am

    Danon will make quite an entrance when he presents his first UN speech. You can bet on the adoring evangelicals and congressmen who will be prepped to comment.
    -Yea, the ground of the nation of Israel and all other righteous nations were seen to writhe like snakes in ecstasy as the word of God fell from his lips onto the ears of the righteous who had awaited his return-

  8. RockyMissouri
    RockyMissouri on August 26, 2015, 11:35 am

    What’s the difference between these guys and ISIS ….? Other than their suits..

  9. Alcibiades
    Alcibiades on August 26, 2015, 2:19 pm

    “Just as Dermer has turned Obama’s White House into a diplomatic battlefield, Danon can be expected to barrack, abuse and alienate fellow ambassadors at the UN in New York.”

    OK, but what is Bibi’s purpose in this? It can’t simply be to alienate fellow ambassadors. That doesn’t make sense. I imagine the goal is to use provocation to elicit “anti-semitic” responses that can then be whined about and used to drive wedges between the nations with pro-Israel political establishments and the others, shoring up support in the key countries: US, Europe.

    If not that, it must be something along those lines, i.e., to further divide the UN on Middle East-related issues in order benefit Likud government policy in some way. Danon may be abusive and abrasive and so is Bibi, but there is a policy goal there somewhere.

    On the other hand, it’s certainly possible that such a strategy could backfire, but given the fecklessness of most Western governments, it’s hard to say.

    • Susan A
      Susan A on August 28, 2015, 6:23 am

      Alcibiades: Read the article again. I think Jonathan Cook says that Netanyahu’s primary goal is to get Danon out of the way, since he regards him as a threat to his own position within Israel. It’s also probably because he hates the UN so much.

  10. just
    just on August 27, 2015, 8:29 am

    Danon is the true face of Israel. Nu? This is what we’ve got now that Netanyahu was reelected and is continuing with inciting his masses with his own hysteria.

    Happily, Herzog is also exposing his own face~ it’s really no better than Netanyahu’s. Which just goes to show that there is no such thing as a leftist or liberal Zionist. Levy responds again:

    “Levy Responds to Herzog: Proud to Be Outside of Your Camp …

    I thank Isaac Herzog for his businesslike reply Tuesday (“Levy’s one state is no vision of hope”) and for the opportunity to respond to the heart of the matter.

    I may be outside the camp, but I’m certainly not with Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. We have nothing in common except the vast void between us; but to be honest, I don’t have much in common with Herzog, either. Ariel may want a single state between the river and the sea, but that state will never be democratic and egalitarian. The right wants the entire land, and at best is willing to let a nation with inferior rights live in it. The world calls that apartheid. Here in Israel we must fight this.

    Herzog isn’t so far from there. If you scrape off the layers of makeup, you’ll find within him the same nationalist foundation; the belief that in this land there is one nation with inborn privileges that exceed those of the other nation living here. It’s a refined nationalism, but no democrat can accept it, and the Palestinians will certainly not accept it.

    It starts with the Law of Return, which is for Jews alone; and winds through “security needs,” which are always only the security needs of the Jews, and ends with the demand that the Palestinian state be demilitarized; it all screams of privilege. Why should the Palestinian state be demilitarized? Is there such a state anywhere on Earth? It has no right to defend its citizens? Aren’t Palestinians’ lives put at risk every day by Israel? And what’s with the “Jordan Valley is the security border?”

    But the nationalism and near-racism expressed by Herzog, the loyal spokesman for the center-left, is far more obvious. What is this fear-mongering about the “danger of an Arab majority” if not racism? Where else do they issue such warnings against people who have been living in a place for generations? …

    … So the answer is yes – one man, one vote, for everyone except the violent racists from both peoples, who will be outlawed. There is no other kind of democracy. Every Jewish nationalist can vote, and every Palestinian nationalist can vote, with the hope that both will gradually become fewer in number.

    I have no idea what Herzog and his ilk mean when they talk about a “Jewish state,” other than its Jewish majority; it doesn’t matter what kind of Jews or how they act, so long as they are Jews. Any way you slice it, you get a nationalist state. Democratic? Of course it isn’t, by definition, nor is it just. If I had to choose between a “Jewish state” on a slippery slope toward becoming an apartheid state and a just state, I prefer the latter. I seek neither a Jewish majority nor an Arab majority, but a democratic majority. It’s doubtful whether today’s Jewish state still has such a majority.

    Herzog calls this “turning out the lights on the Zionist project.” But these lights were dimmed long ago, even with a Jewish majority. They were turned off when inspectors hunted down refugees in the cities of the Jewish state; they were turned off when the occupiers demolished flimsy homes leaving hundreds of people with nothing over their heads in the heat of August in the occupied Jordan Valley. What lights are left, exactly, if these are the policies – about which, incidentally, we’ve heard nary a protest from Herzog the Zionist.

    “What sane Israeli would choose to live in a state with an Arab majority?” asks Herzog, ripping off the mask once and for all. Well, a fifth of Israel’s population would prefer an Arab majority; they’re sane, but Herzog forgot about them. Even as a Jew, however, if I had to choose between a Jewish majority and a democratic majority, between a majority that supports racism and a majority that supports equality, it doesn’t matter what nationality they’re from, I would not hesitate to choose. Nor would Herzog hesitate; he will always prefer the Jews, and then he’ll call that democracy.

    This puts Herzog inside the camp and me outside it. I’m proud of that.”

    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.673086

Leave a Reply