newsIsrael at War

‘Allowing Hamas to stay in Gaza is not acceptable’

An interview with Israel's former U.N. envoy Danny Danon.

Danny Danon visits the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar in Judea, Jan. 23, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Danny Danon visits the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar in Judea, Jan. 23, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Ambassador Danny Danon is a senior member of Israel’s Knesset and chairman of World Likud. He previously served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, minister of science and technology and deputy minister of defense. 

In November, Danon co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed with Yesh Atid MK and former deputy Mossad director Ram Ben Barak discussing the international community’s moral imperative to provide Gazans safe haven away from the war-torn enclave. 

In an interview with JNS, Danon went over the war’s latest developments. He addressed his recent interview with Sky News, which led the outlet to publicly apologize, Israel’s progress in dismantling Hamas, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s terror involvement and Israeli demands for another round of elections. 

Q: In your view, how is the war against Hamas going?

A: We started out very strongly. We achieved a lot in the first stages. We were able to release hostages. When we resumed the war effort [following a week-long ceasefire in November], due to pressure mainly from the United States we changed the way we operate, which [resulted in the progress being] much slower. I think we have to go back to the way that we conducted this war at the beginning, which involved evacuating the population, using airstrikes and being much more aggressive against Hamas. 

Q: Do you think Netanyahu’s stated goals of destroying Hamas, returning all the hostages and ensuring that Gaza can never again pose a threat are realistic?

A: I don’t think we have any other choice. We have to make sure we achieve those goals. Allowing Hamas to stay in Gaza is not acceptable and will endanger the State of Israel. It will also encourage terror organizations to continue attacking us.

Q: Do you believe that the Biden administration is fully behind Israel?

A: We appreciate the support we receive from the Biden administration. However, one cannot expect us to win the war with our hands tied behind our back. We expect our allies to realize that we have to use force to eradicate evil. We can’t do it without our air force or with humanitarian aid going straight to Hamas.

Q: What is your opinion of aid entering the Strip?

A: I am not against humanitarian aid entering Gaza. I am against allowing Hamas to take control of this aid. We must change this mode of operation and make sure the aid does not go to Hamas or to UNRWA [The United Nations Relief and Works Agency]. We could send the aid to certain areas where the population would be concentrated, while declaring other areas combat zones. This would ensure that we are able to provide civilians with humanitarian aid while depriving Hamas of it. 

Q: Do you believe that UNRWA should be dissolved immediately?

A: Absolutely. We must take advantage of evidence that was revealed in the last few days as well as of the fact that many countries have decided to suspend donations to UNRWA and start building a new form of support, maybe through UNHCR [the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] or other entities. Definitely not through UNRWA. 

Q: Do you think now is the time to confront Hezbollah in the north?

A: It’s never a good time to conduct a war effort, but if Hezbollah does not move further away from the fence through diplomatic negotiations, we will have no choice but to push them back. The residents of the north will not go back to a place where they are being watched by Hezbollah terrorists constantly. 

Q: Iran is marching towards a nuclear weapon. What are you doing to stop this?

A: It should not be Israel’s responsibility. I expect the international community and the Western democracies to be involved in the effort to stop Iran from building nuclear capabilities. We are very active on that front and are preparing for a situation in which we will have to handle the threat ourselves. I hope it will not get to that. I hope other countries will realize the extent of the threat and take action. 

Q: What is your opinion of the genocide accusations leveled against Israel at the International Court of Justice?

A: I think it is a fake petition about a fake genocide. The only investigation which should be conducted is one to find out why South Africa teamed up with Hamas. We must find out who paid South Africa and how much to submit this ridiculous, shameful petition against Israel. 

Q: As a former U.N. ambassador, how do you believe Israel needs to engage with the broader international community, if at all?

A: We have to expose the truth. I do so by bringing dignitaries to Israel from various countries and showing them the sites of the atrocities that took place on Oct. 7. I also explain our position in the media. I had a very tough interview with Sky News a few days ago during which I had to push back as the anchor compared our soldiers to the Nazis and [their actions to] the acts of the Nazis during the Holocaust. We are dealing with antisemitism, a lot of hate, and we have to push back. 

Q: What do you say to members of the opposition who are already calling for elections, only a year after this government was sworn in?

A: I believe that it’s a mistake to bring up politics now. We should focus on the war effort and how to win this war. To them, I say: hold your horses and be patient. I can’t imagine engaging in political debates while we are at war. 

Q: Do you think Netanyahu should take responsibility for Oct. 7?

A: We will have to [hold an inquiry]. Anyone who had authority on that day must provide answers. 

Q: Do you plan on challenging Netanyahu for the Likud leadership at some point?

A: I ran against Netanyahu in the 2014 elections and I received 30% of the vote. I think now is not the time to discuss politics. 

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