RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian senator who is also a prominent evangelical leader of millions said rejecting Israel’s appointed ambassador to Brasilia conveys a pro-boycott message.
“Rejecting the ambassador can convey a message that Brazil supports BDS,” Marcelo Crivella wrote in an op-ed published earlier this week in the influential Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, referring to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “Leaving Israel without an ambassador won’t help anyone,” he said.
Crivella called Dani Dayan, a former settler leader, “a prepared diplomat selected legitimately by a friendly country. The fact that he defends settlements in the West Bank is a weak motive for such discourtesy and so much political inability.”
The Brazilian government has remained silent on the choice of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, signaling an official rejection of Dayan’s credentials.
Realizing that Brasilia will not accept Dayan, senior officials in the ministry have begun looking for ways out of the diplomatic impasse, with some recommending he be tapped as ambassador to a different country. Dayan’s name has also been raised as a possible consul general in Los Angeles or New York.
In his article, Crivella noted the deep ties between Brazil and Israel, recalling that Brazilian diplomat Oswaldo Aranha presided over the United Nations session that created the State of Israel in 1948. Today, Israel is a key technological partner in the Brazilian defense industry, including projects with the major private jet manufacturer Embraer.
“Many of the accusations against Israel stem from a lack of understanding of the country’s geo-political situation,” Crivella wrote. “Israel’s structural difficulties regarding territory and natural resources must be compensated by an extraordinary capacity of defense and a national security doctrine.”
In November, the senator joined some 1,500 demonstrators at a pro-Israel rally in Rio de Janeiro. Days before, during a major TV show, he had called for “all friends of Israel” to attend the rally.
Crivella is a nephew of Edir Macedo, who founded the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God 40 years ago. He has also played a pivotal role in the church, gathering some 5.2 million followers at 13,000 temples across Brazil and worldwide. The church owns the second-largest TV station in Brazil, as well as a broad conglomerate of newspapers and radio stations.
Now in his second eight-year term in the Senate, Crivella also served temporarily as minister of fisheries and aquaculture appointed by President Dilma Rousseff in 2012.
Rouseff and her predecessor, Luiz Ignacio Lula, have been accused in the 120,000 strong Brazilian Jewish community of fomenting an anti-Israel environment.
An alternative envoy would receive “fast-track approval,” a Brazilian source told the Times of Israel on Tuesday, and the Brazilian government would also publish a statement hailing the longtime friendship with the Jewish state. If his name is not withdrawn, Brasilia will announce an official public rejection of Dayan’s appointment.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.