Danon is a talented fighter for Israel. This reviewer noted in a 2013 article about him, "Three qualities stand out: a devotion to principle, a mastery of tactics, and the ability to articulate a vision." As a Likud member of Knesset, these inevitably led him to clash with the long-time head of the party, Benjamin Netanyahu, leading to Danon's being humiliatingly fired by Netanyahu in 2014 from his position as Israel's deputy minister of defense. But Netanyahu could not keep his nemesis down, so he did the next best thing and appointed him to a prestigious but potentially career-ending position, that of Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in New York. Lion's Den tells the story of that five-year assignment, in 2015-20.
As with other accounts from the U.N. swamp (including my own from 1988), this one features battles heroically fought, sometimes won, usually lost. It is striking, from the vantage point of a few years' distance, how small those battles seem in respect. Danon begins his account with the December 2016 story of UNSC Resolution 2334, the low point of his tenure because it involved the U.S. government turning against Israel. The episode included such dramatic touches as his turning around on arrival in Puerto Rico for a family vacation to return to New York, his being informed by (of all people) a Muslim diplomat of the impending crisis, and failed middle-of-the-night calls to political leaders.
Yet, for all the Sturm-und-Drang, who today remembers Resolution 2334, who cares about it, and what legacy does it have? Donald Trump, who would reach the Oval Office less than a month after its passing, denounced the resolution, reducing it to mere symbolism, a token of Barack Obama's anger at Netanyahu and not the harbinger of a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations.
While Danon proved a highly effective ambassador, bringing imagination and verve to the job, his own list of accomplishments points to their limited impact: he was the first Israeli elected to chair a committee; he facilitated the inclusion of kosher food in the U.N. cafeteria; he won the recognition and the celebration of Jewish holidays, and he got the U.N. to purchase Israeli products.
But if the position has severe limitations, Lion's Den offers insight into Turtle Bay and sometimes amusement about its goings-on. One example: Danon contrasts Israel's parliament where people publicly praise you but behind closed doors can say horrible things, with the U.N., where "it's exactly the opposite—people are quite happy to publicly denounce Israel, but behind closed doors, they appreciate and admire us." The book will also likely help Danon to continue his rise in Israeli politics.