Why Did Bibi Wimp Out?

There’s one weapon Israel wishes it didn’t have: all those loose cannons.  The latest salvo was fired for all the world to see this week when the deputy defense minister essentially accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of bluffing on his commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Danny Danon said Netanyahu isn’t really serious about the two-state approach but feels free to talk about it because he knows the Palestinians will never challenge him on it.  Netanyahu first endorsed the principle in his 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University and has repeated it since then.

In a speech to Knesset last week, Netanyahu reasserted his readiness to sit down with the Palestinians at the negotiating table and called on Mahmoud Abbas to “give peace a chance.”

Danon, who is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the prime minister couldn’t get support for a two-state agreement within his own party even if he wanted to.

Can you imagine a senior official in the U.S. Department of Defense giving interviews saying the President of the United States is essentially a liar?  He’d be out on his keister by nightfall. Not just in Washington but also in any other democratic capital.  But apparently not in Jerusalem.

What about Danon’s boss, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon?  Why would the minister, a former IDF chief of staff, tolerate such public opposition to the government from inside his own offices?

Danon can freely express his private opinions as a Knesset member or as a civilian, but as a senior official in the government’s security establishment?

Yaalon is due at the Pentagon this week to meet with his counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The retired Israeli general might ask the former U.S. Army sergeant how he’d feel if Ashton B. Carter, the deputy secretary of defense, behaved the way Yaalon’s deputy does.

Yaalon was quoted in the Israeli media saying he didn’t really want Danon in the first place and seriously limited his deputy’s powers, adding, “I’ve given up responsibility for him a long time ago.  Don’t come to me with complaints.”  That’s a lousy excuse.

Senior PLO member Jabril Rajoub was denied entry to Israel this week because of his incitement and saying all of Israel is “occupied territory.” Maariv, the Israeli newspaper, said, “Rajoub wants a greater Palestine and Danon, his political twin, wants a greater Israel.”

Danon’s remaining in the Cabinet suggests that his comments may not have been not far off the mark, and the admonitions by Netanyahu and Yaalon, who kept him in office, were just for show.

Netanyahu, with his MBA from MIT, may consider himself a good manager, and Yaalon a strong commander, but Danon’s performance makes them both look like wimps. 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.