Though Danon, a Likud minister and ally to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed that he was stating a personal opinion rather than interfering in the U.S. election, he has effusively praised GOP candidate Mitt Romney, framing his comments in nakedly electoral terms. In a July op-ed for the Jerusalem Post, Danon wrote:
In this election, those who want what is truly best for Israel are presented with a starker choice than usual. On one hand, there is Gov. Mitt Romney, who is taking the time to visit us at the moment, and who time and again has spoken out strongly for Israel’s rights to safeguard our own interests.
On the other hand, incumbent candidate US President Barack Obama has all but adopted the Palestinian negotiation position and given Israel the cold shoulder on every possible occasion.
Danon has a history of harsh right-wing public positioning. He suggested Israel should permanently annex the occupied Palestinian territories, telling al-Jazeera, “There is place only for one state on the land of Israel …. I do not believe in a two-state solution.” Danon has introduced legislation to annex part of the West Bank. He also implied the U.S. and its allies should use military force to overthrow the Iranian government.
The Likud minister’s comments also present a problem for his party leader, Netanyahu, who has been battling the widespread perception that he has been intervening in the U.S. presidential election on Romney’s behalf. The Prime Minister’s remarks on Iran have been used in an anti-Obama ad that aired in Florida, forcing Netanyahu’s office disavow any involvement in the ad’s production. Netanyahu also gave an interview to Israeli tabloid Israel Hayom denying that he was moving against Obama.
Danon’s judgment of President Obama is not shared by his country’s Defense Minister and President. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said he “can hardly remember a better period of support, American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding” and that “I don’t think that anyone can raise any question mark about the devotion of this president to the security of Israel.” Similarly, President Shimon Peres told CNN that “when I look at the record of President Obama concerning the major issues, security, I think it’s a highly satisfactory record, from an Israeli point of view.” The Obama administration has broadened American cooperation with Israel on a variety of key issues, including missile defense.