Hawkish Israeli Minister Danny Danon, just tapped to become Israel’s next envoy to the United Nations, “will surprise many” in his new role, a close confidant and adviser to the U.S.-educated Likud Party member told The Algemeiner on Friday.
“Expect to see him active on issues including women’s rights” said the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record and asked not to be named.
“There are thousands of women being raped and sold as slaves in the Middle East by ISIS, and on this — and similar issues — Danon will speak the truth and not worry about political correctness,” the source said. “He has long been very politically savvy and has unusual political allies, and that will continue at the U.N.”
The 44-year-old was offered the position earlier this year as part of the political Rubik’s Cube Netanyahu had to solve as he formed the narrowest of governing coalitions after his election win in March.
According to the source, “Danon was offered this position – and took it instead of a more senior cabinet position, which he was offered at the time the government was formed. He wants to be prime minister – or foreign minister – and this is a chance to be on the world stage for Israel.”
Danon currently serves as Minister of Science, Technology and Space, a role which he may have taken on temporarily while awaiting the conclusion of current U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor’s term. Since first entering the Knesset in 2009, Danon has steadily climbed the ranks within the Likud party, now placed at no. 9 on the party list. In 2014, he unsuccessfully challenged Netanyahu for leadership of the party, and was fired from his post as Deputy Defense Minister last summer after criticizing the government’s handling of Operation Protective Edge.
In an extensive interview with The Algemeiner in 2012, a soft-spoken Danon said of his relationship with Netanyahu, “I think he appreciates me, because I’m very direct with him. Whatever I tell him in a closed room, he knows that’s my position.”
In Israel, the opposition was quick to condemn the appointment, saying Danon’s opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state as well as his other nationalist positions were not well-suited for the sensitive task of representing Israel in the often hostile U.N.
“Netanyahu is abandoning the state of Israel in the middle of a difficult battle in the international arena,” said MK Tzipi Livni of the Center-Left Zionist Union party.
The prime minister “prioritizes his personal interests in the Likud Central Committee over the security interests of the state of Israel,” she charged, according to the The Times of Israel.
The leader of Israel’s opposition, Isaac Herzog, said the appointment was “cynical and driven by petty politics.”
“This is like an elephant in a China shop,” said Erel Margalit, another Zionist Union MK. “Danon will make us miss the harm Netanyahu caused to Israel’s foreign relations.”
In a scathing editorial, Times of Israel editor-in-chief David Horovitz echoed those sentiments.
“It is hard to conceive of a more short-sighted, shameful and damaging appointment than that of the Likud hawk as U.N. envoy,” he wrote. “Not just for [the prime minister], but for all of Israel.”
But in conversation with The Algemeiner, Danon’s acquaintance shot back. “The Left in Israel is upset – do they think that having a leftist at the United Nations will see the U.N. singing Kumbaya for Israel?” the source asked. The “criticism is absurd – no matter who at the U.N. represents Israel, the U.N. hates Israel.”
“The same way that the Iran deal is not about Netanyahu, the U.N. hating Israel is not about Danon,” the source continued. “And indeed with Danon at the U.N., Israel will be represented by someone fiercely pro-Israel.”
Others also were quick to praise Danon’s appointment.
Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes said the appointment to the “high-profile position … will likely turn Danon into an international figure.”
“The opposition has predictably twisted its knickers over the appointment, both accusing Netanyahu of doing anything to remove Danon from his Likud Party positions and seeing this as ‘another nail in the coffin of Israel’s foreign relations,’” he said.
Pipes predicted that, “Facing the U.N., Netanyahu and Danon will finally be on the same page.” Additionally, he said “Danon will use this as a platform eloquently to promote his country’s interests and to promote his own eventual candidacy for prime minister.”
Concluded Pipes: “A star has been born.”
Danon earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from Florida International University, and a master’s in public policy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the 1990’s he served as a leader of Zionist youth group Betar North America. Throughout his time in the U.S., Danon developed strong ties with lawmakers and leaders of the U.S. Jewish community.
In the 2012 interview with The Algemeiner, he described his image among the Israeli public as divided.
“People don’t ignore me, but I can tell you that I care,” he said. “Even Mordechai [the Biblical character in the Purim story] was only welcomed by the majority of his brothers. So I’m not busy trying to satisfy everybody all the time. I say what I think, what I believe, and I do get support for that.”