Is Israel headed for diplomatic brawl with Brazil over Dayan appointment?

December 18, 2015 18:48

Brazilian officials are known to be uncomfortable with Dayan due to his rightist political views, namely his stated opposition to Palestinian statehood.

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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff attends a ceremony for regulating the Green Free Trade Zone in some cities of the Amazon, at Planalto Palace in Brasilia. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israeli officials expressed concern on Friday over a brewing diplomatic crisis with Brazil as the government there has so far refused the appointment of Dani Dayan, the former settler leader and Argentina native, as ambassador to Brasilia.

Dayan, the onetime chairman of the Yesha council of settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), was named ambassador to Brazil four months ago, yet his credentials have yet to be approved by the authorities in the South American giant.

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Brazilian officials are known to be uncomfortable with Dayan due to his rightist political views, namely his stated opposition to Palestinian statehood.

“I am confident that Dani Dayan will bring to the post his considerable experience and will deepen relations between Israel and Brazil,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this year.

Dayan, a resident of the Ma’aleh Shomron settlement, was the head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria from 2007-2013.

With his ability to speak Spanish, English, and Hebrew he brought a new international face to the settler council and continued to represent it abroad as a foreign liaison, even after he resigned as its chairman.

He was among the top Israeli leaders invited to address the prestigious, American- based Saban Forum.

Dayan has been a member of both the Likud and Bayit Yehudi parties. He run unsuccessfully for this Knesset on the Bayit Yehudi’s list.

Outside of his political and diplomatic work, Dayan also has a background in hi-tech and is the founder of Elad Systems.

“I promised the prime minister that I would spare no effort or creativity in fulfilling the strategic task he has assigned me,” Dayan said. “Even though I did not commit that we would win a gold medal in next year’s Rio Olympics, we all hope that it will happen,” Dayan said.

Brazil has 200 million citizens and the Israeli government estimates that 40 million of them are pro-Israel Christians. It is the largest country in Latin America and the seventh largest economy in the world.

The previous ambassador to Brazil, Rada Mansour, returned to Israel earlier this week. Israel's main diplomatic mission in Brasilia has since been managed by his deputy.

In recent years, Israel's image has taken a beating throughout Latin America, particularly against the backdrop of the failed peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

During Operation Protective Edge last year, Mansour was summoned by the Brazilian authorities for censure over what they perceived as Israel's disproportionately harsh response to Palestinian rocket fire.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen sent a letter to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff not to approve Israel's appointment of Dayan as envoy to Brazil.

"Dayan has consistently acted with blatant disregard for international law and norms, and has been spearheading various initiatives that directly violate the Palestinian people’s basic rights," Jabareen wrote in his letter to Roussef. 

Jabareen quoted from a New York Times opinion article that Dayan wrote in 2012 in which he defended the expansion of the settlements in the West Bank. 

"Dayan is a settler who is ideologically committed to the development of the settlements – a policy Brazil recognizes as illegal under international law," Jabareen wrote.

"Approving his appointment as ambassador would legitimize his criminal ideology and practices, and send a resounding message that Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people has no consequences in the international arena," he added.

A Foreign Ministry official told The Jerusalem Post's Hebrew-language sister publication Ma'ariv that Jerusalem is still waiting for the Brazilian government's approval of Dayan as ambassador.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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