Brazil diplomatically refusing Israel’s designated ambassador
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Months have passed, with no confirmation that envoy is acceptable

Brazil diplomatically refusing Israel’s designated ambassador

Chosen in August, settler leader Dani Dayan still to hear from Brasilia; Jerusalem said waiting until Christmas to decide how to proceed

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Dani Dayan, former head of the Yesha Council, on December 14, 2014 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Dani Dayan, former head of the Yesha Council, on December 14, 2014 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The appointment of settler leader Dani Dayan as Israel’s new ambassador to Brazil, which was announced more than four months ago, has still not been approved by Brasilia, indicating that the Latin American country is unwilling to accept his nomination.

On August 5, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped Dayan as Israel’s new ambassador to Brazil, the continent’s most populous country. The move garnered praise from many Israelis, even from left-wingers such as the Labor Party’s Shelly Yachimovich, despite Dayan’s senior positions in the Yesha Council, a committee representing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

However, some left-leaning Brazilians and Israelis — including a group of former senior diplomats — started lobbying the government in Brasilia against accepting Dayan, arguing such a move could be understood as tacit approval for Israel’s settlement enterprise. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff reportedly informed Jerusalem that she disapproves of Dayan’s appointment.

On September 6, the Israeli cabinet approved Dayan’s appointment, paving the way for the Foreign Ministry to request what is called in diplomatic parlance an agrément — a host country’s confirmation of another state’s envoy to its capital.

An agrément is usually given within two to three weeks. When an agrément is not received after two months, a government is meant to understand that its choice of ambassador was not approved by the host country.

“Brazil won’t confirm Dayan,” a senior former diplomatic official in Jerusalem said. “They are just not giving us any response, which means that they hope we will understand the message ourselves. For Brazil, it’s a scandal that Israel wants to send a settler leader as its ambassador.”

Governments rarely give negative replies to other countries’ requests to accredit an appointed ambassador. Rather, they simply do not respond to the request for an agrément, thus signaling that they disapprove and hope the host country will withdraw the nomination.

There is historical precedent for such a scenario: In 1997, an Israeli professor, Ehud Toledano, was tapped as Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, but Ankara did not confirm his appointment for several months. Jerusalem finally realized that Turkey objected to Toledano — presumably because of a statement he had made about the Armenian genocide — and withdrew the nomination.

Other sources, however, said they are not concerned by Brasilia’s delay in confirming Dayan, arguing that the previous Israeli envoy to Brazil had to wait for three months before he was confirmed and that such delays occur occasionally for various reasons unrelated to a country’s desire to shun a certain candidate.

Contacted by The Times of Israel, the Foreign Ministry and Dayan both declined to comment.

In private conversations, however, Israeli diplomats said that they have set themselves a deadline of Christmas. If by then no agrément has been received, the Foreign Ministry will deem Dayan’s appointment as rejected and mull further moves.

Since he was appointed in the summer, Dayan has been preparing for the new job: He has been learning Portuguese and met with Brazilian Jewish groups and Brazilian parliamentarians.

Dani Dayan, next to PM Netanyahu, meeting a delegation of eight Brazilian parliamentarians, November 2015 (GPO)
Dani Dayan, next to PM Netanyahu, meeting a delegation of eight Brazilian parliamentarians, November 2015 (GPO)

Rousseff, the Brazilian president, has faced pressure from dozens of Brazilian organizations to reject Dayan based on his history of advocacy for the settlement movement. In August, a petition was presented to the Brazilian government calling the appointment “a violation of the international legitimacy and sovereignty of Brazil.”

As the largest country in South America and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, Brazil is viewed in Jerusalem as an important strategic and economic partner.

The Argentine-born Dayan is a staunch opponent of the two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, and has been active in promoting Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Ahead of the Knesset elections earlier this year, Dayan was placed 21st on the right-wing Jewish Home party’s Knesset list, but backed out of the party before the vote.

“I accepted the challenge posed by the prime minister to deepen and improve the relations between Israel and Brazil,” Dayan said following his appointment. “I assured the prime minister I would not spare any effort or creativity in fulfilling the strategic task given to me.”

Dayan, 60, immigrated to Israel with his family at age 15. He later began working for a software firm and shortly afterward co-founded his own, the hugely successful Elad Systems. At the age of 50, he sold his share of the company and devoted himself to full-time political activism.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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