Liberal American Jewish community leaders have begun taking swipes at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for naming Danny Danon Israel's new ambassador to the United Nations, warning his appointment could become a diplomatic "disaster."
Danon, the outgoing Science, Technology and Space Minister, has received heat from Israel and abroad, from critics who consider his views, including opposition to the two-state solution, extreme.
“Once again the prime minister of Israel has made a strategic mistake,” Dov Zakheim, a former US government official, told Haaretz Tuesday. Danon's appointment to the UN “undermines the credibility of Netanyahu’s assertion that he really supports a two-state solution.”
Zakheim, who served as Undersecretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration and now chairs the American Jewish Committee’s Jewish Religious Equality Coalition (J-REC), said "strategically it's a disaster."
Haaretz has reported that J-REC includes leaders of organizations from the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements, along with “open Orthodox” groups Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, as well as leaders of the ultra-leftist New Israel Fund.
Pundits in Israel have estimated that Netanyahu wanted to appoint Danon to the UN as a way of removing him from the internal Likud political arena for several years, further infuriating the majority of American Jews who back the idea of a Palestinian state.
“I honestly don’t know what the prime minister is trying to do when he sends an ultra-nationalistic extremist who has nothing but disdain for the majority of American Jews and the positions of most Israelis,” CEO of the NIF, Daniel Sokatch, asserted.
“He is the face within the Likud party of annexation, of no two-state solution. He’s been considered too extreme even for his own party,” Sokatch argued. Sending him to represent Israel at the UN “is a powerful, powerful message sent to the American Jewish community.”
According to Peter Joseph, chairman of the Israel Policy Forum, another organization which promotes a "two-state solution," Danon's appointment is also “a stick in the eye to the possibilities” of regional cooperation to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His appointment to the UN “at a time when Israel needs to work on its relationship with the world community and the US, sends a very unfortunate message about Netanyahu’s views as to the importance of the UN and this position,” Joseph told Haaretz.
Meanwhile, Danon's appointment was warmly welcomed by the Zionist Organization of America. In a statement Monday, ZOA President Morton Klein said it was "an inspired selection," and called Danon "a principled and courageous promoter of the truth of the ongoing Arab war against Israel.”
In a later interview with Haaretz, Klein said it is "absolutely ludicrous to think that with someone other than Danon there would be a dramatic likelihood of the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state."
“We are now 22 years since Oslo, a Palestinian state was offered twice and rejected because they have no interest in accepting statehood if it means accepting Israel and relinquishing all claims.”