Israel: The Will to Prevail, by Danny Danon. Palgrave Macmillan. 240 pages. $26.00
If this is the new voice of Israeli politics and government, it is a shrewd, loud, and powerful voice that is sure to be controversial both inside and outside of Israel’s borders. Danny Danon, chairman of World Likud (a major political party) and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, argues that the generations of appeasement, two-state solutions, and land-for-peace bargaining need to be put into the dustbin of history. They haven’t worked, and they have rarely, if ever, been in Israel’s interest. He advocates a much tougher stance, along with much greater independence from American policy.
As a key player in a new generation of Israel’s leadership, Danon insists that Israel needs to assert full sovereignty over lands under its control and stop expecting some future giveaway to bring peace. For Danon, demonstrated strength will be the great peacemaker. In the Middle East, power talks and anything less than an aggressive stance is construed as weakness. We’ve heard these positions before, but Danon has put the package together with great clarity and force. Is his a dangerous stance? Perhaps, but it may be less dangerous than the acquiescence that invites annihilation.
Danon makes all the old cases for Israel’s right to exist in its current place on the globe: the Biblical case, the continuity case, and the legalistic case. He makes them coherently, economically, and with a bit of useful swagger. It’s almost as if he’s briefing Jewish college students on how to answer the arguments from the left side of the political spectrum, and Danon provides superb ammunition and copious documentation.
He reminds his readers that after WWI Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon were created in pretty much that same way that Israel was created after WWII, but no one is questioning the legitimacy of those nations. He reviews, briefly, the great British Mandate for Palestine giveaway of 80% of the land to the country now named Jordan, the home of over two million Palestinians. It’s clear that at one time the international community expected the entire Mandate territory (from the wreck of the Ottoman Empire) to be the home of a Jewish nation. He insists, with plentiful evidence, that there never was a Palestinian nation – a distinct, self-governing entity – to be overtaken, stolen, occupied, or otherwise compromised.
For all of the background arguments that Danon provides, his main strategy is to underscore the facts on the ground. Israel is here, unapologetic, and ready to take its survival interests fully into its own hands. That means, with some slight adjustments, fully annexing territories conquered in defensive wars.
Danny Danon is at great pains to articulate a refinement of Israel’s relationship with its great ally, the United States. The question of U. S. influence on Israel’s policies and actions is complicated and deeply rooted. From Danon’s perspective, Israel has too often caved in to U.S. (and other Western) pressure and acted against its own interest, postponing the reckoning to a later date. Having gained the upper hand with its enemy neighbors on several occasions, Israel folded to appease its allies. Danon believes a stronger, more independent Israel can be of even greater value to the United States. Though such a statement may seem counterintuitive, the argument’s details are compelling.
The future that Danon envisions includes a three-state solution to the Palestinian crisis. He writes as follows: “This would entail a regional agreement with Jordan (Danon claims that Palestinians are 70% of Jordan’s population), Egypt (where Palestinians already enjoy many advantages of citizenship), and Israel that would give Palestinians land and other rights across these three areas – not land to form a distinct Palestinian state but land within the borders of these states as they exist now.” All parties would agree that Israel has a right to exist, and Israel would fight to demolish those, like Hamas and Hezbollah, that work to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state.
Does Danny Danon’s proposal have a chance? Well, stranger things have happened. It certainly is a challenge to the dead-end modes of thought that have proven their inadequacy for so many decades. For this reason, it is required reading for all who care about Israel.
This review appears in the November 2012 issues of Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County), L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties), and The Jewish News (Jewish Federation of Sarasota/Manatee).