Deputy speaker of the Knesset, Danny Danon, is internationally known as a fearless supporter of Israels new brand of nationalism. As one of Israel’s chief spokesmen, he gets attention when he gives his opinion on matters affecting Israel and the world. His opinions can be at the center of political firestorms.
I spent time with him discussing a wide range of subjects such as: Irans nuclear threat, Israel’s new found energy independence, the Irish “Freedom Flotilla” and other subjects important to Israel and the rest of the world.
To most Americans and the rest of the world, the Middle East always seems to be on the verge of some sort of cataclysmic event. But the thought of the crazed leadership running Iran getting their hands on nuclear weapons, would bring that scenario to fruition.
Americans are very uncomfortable with the thought of a nuclear armed Iran and we are thousand of miles away. Israel, just a few hundred miles away, is highly alarmed at that possibility, since Iran’s leaders have repeatedly said their goal is to “wipe Israel off the map.”
The United States along with other countries, for years have put trade sanctions on Iran designed to bring them to the table and take away their nuclear ambitions. President Obama, fresh off of receiving his Nobel Peace Prize, thought he could push the reset button with Iran and reason with them on the nuclear issue.
I asked deputy speaker Danon, about the announcement of new sanctions against Iran and do they seem to be having an effect on their desire to get nuclear weapons. He said: “We see a lot of talk, a lot of declarations from Washington, but no leadership. These sanctions are too little, too late. If anything, the words from Washington have emboldened Iran to accelerate its engine of development for getting bombs.”
Danon compared President Obamas 2009 Cairo speech to present day difficulties in the Middle East: “The Presidents speech was not connected to the reality on the ground.” “Everything said, is the opposite of what we now have; No stability, more extreme forces in Egypt and other countries as well.” Danon went on: “ This area is very dynamic and it takes more than a charismatic speech to change reality.”
The can has been kicked down the road about as far as it can go without taking some defining action before Iran becomes nuclear. What will Israel do in conjunction with its ally the US? Danon spoke solemnly with perhaps a bit of sadness: “Israel can only rely on itself for protection.” We love the United States, but it is a big country and can possibly tolerate the idea of a nuclear armed Iran. We are small, we cannot afford to make a mistake, the crucial decisions for our survival are up to us. If Iran got nuclear weapons, it would be very difficult for Israel to survive.”
To me, that drove the stark reality home of the gut wrenching decisions that leaders are now making. I felt the future of this country; the hopes, dreams and very survival of millions of people, would hinge on critical life and death evaluations being made now in the most secret of planning rooms.
Dannon remarked on the recent visit by Mitt Romney and the previous visit by Sarah Palin. He had greeted them both and spent time with them while they stayed in Israel. I asked him if he felt a closer kinship with them because their political leanings. His reply was: “I stand and support anyone who supports Israel, Democrat or Republican, it makes no difference. We encourage more to come, because sometimes many of us in Israel feel everyone’s against us.”
I reminded him that the great majority of American’s feel a kinship with Israel and want our government to work together with them. We feel Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East. Mr. Danon was very grateful for the support Americans give his country.
If a war does erupt over the Iran nuclear issue, it will be due to a lack of strength shown in our foreign policy. As history has shown repeatedly, peace is attained through strength and respect, not by empty words and empty threats.
Who was behind the “Peace Flotilla” designed to be confrontational with Israel. Although many members of the flotilla emanated from Ireland, does Danny Danon think Ireland is a bastion of anti Israel sentiment?
We’ll discuss that issue in the next installment.