Tourists visit the Christ the Redeemer statue with Sugarloaf Mountain (R) in the distance in Rio de Janeiro.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In 2015, Brazil rejected Dani Dayan as Israel’s pick for ambassador to Brasilia because he once headed the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea in Samaria. On Tuesday, the country approved the appointment of Yossi Sheli, a Likud activist who was once barred from public service for three years because of a perjury indictment.
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the Brazilian government has approved the appointment of Sheli, in a step that – along with the recent appointment of a new Brazilian envoy to Israel – heralds a new era in Israeli-Brazilian relations.
“There is no doubt that this appointment will promote friendship between the two countries and further relations across many spheres, including economy and trade,” the statement said. “Brazil is the seventh-largest economy in the world, and the home of an important and Zionist Jewish community.”
Israel has been without an ambassador to the country since its last ambassador, Reda Mansour, left in the summer of 2015.
The refusal of Brasilia to accept Dayan cast a shadow over relations, though with the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff last year, there was optimism in Jerusalem that the ties would begin to take a turn for the better.
Sheli is a political appointment selected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He is a former businessman who was barred from 2012 to 2015 from public service, because of a plea bargain deal he signed stemming from a false affidavit he signed when accepting the job of chairman of the Israel Postal Company in the early 2000s.
At the time, he falsely said that he had no political affiliation, despite being a Likud activist.
In 2013 Netanyahu tried to appoint him as director-general of the Likud, but this move ran into significant internal opposition, and was eventually dropped.
Dayan’s appointment in 2015 was scuttled by Brasilia, after it came under heavy pressure from Palestinians, leftwing NGOs and left-wing Israelis urging Brazil to reject him on the grounds that to accept him as envoy would be seen as legitimizing the settlements.
Dayan has since been appointed consul general in New York, a job he took over in August 2016.
Sheli’s appointment has raised some eyebrows in the Foreign Ministry both because of his past, as well as his lack of diplomatic experience.