Brazil rejects Dani Dayan as ambassador, official says

Brasilia angry at choice of settler leader, and at Israel for announcing appointment without informing its Foreign Ministry

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

Dani Dayan participates in a panel discussion at the Israel Conference on Democracy in Tel Aviv, February 17, 2015. (Amir Levy/Flash90)
Dani Dayan participates in a panel discussion at the Israel Conference on Democracy in Tel Aviv, February 17, 2015. (Amir Levy/Flash90)

Brazil will not accept settler leader Dani Dayan as Israel’s next ambassador, a senior official in Brasilia said.

Following diplomatic protocol, Brazil will simply not respond to Israel’s months-old request to confirm Dayan’s nomination, waiting until Jerusalem gets the hint and proposes a different envoy to its capital, the official said this week. Dayan was named as envoy in August, and endorsed by the Israeli cabinet in September, but Brazil has maintained a frosty silence on the appointment rather than issuing the customary confirmation.

The South American country is rejecting Dayan not only because of his senior positions in the Yesha Council, a committee representing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but also due to the unorthodox way in which his appointment was announced, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his nomination of Dayan as Israel’s new ambassador to Brazil on August 5, only one year after the current envoy, Reda Mansour, took up his post in Brasilia.

According to diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, Mansour’s wife did not want to move to Brasilia, and he therefore decided to inform Jerusalem that he wanted to quit. As soon as Netanyahu — who is also foreign minister — heard that Mansour was planning to vacate the post in December, he publicly nominated Dayan, without first informing the Brazilian Foreign Ministry of what had transpired.

What next?

Officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry have refused to comment on the matter on the record. But in private conversations, they describe different scenarios of what might now transpire. Some diplomats say that if Brazil does not formally accept Dayan by the end of the month, Jerusalem will get the hint. Others say they are confident that the Argentinean-born Dayan will yet get the nod and move into the ambassador’s residence in Brasilia.

One top official told The Times of Israel that a very high-placed Brazilian official a few months ago signaled to Jerusalem that Dayan’s appointment would go through. He was likely referring to a conversation Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon reportedly conducted with his Brazilian counterpart, Jaques Wagner, in late September, in which Ya’alon tried to convince the government to confirm Dayan’s appointment.

Immediately after Netanyahu announced Dayan’s appointment in August, some left-leaning Brazilians and Israelis — including a group of former senior diplomats — started lobbying the government in Brasilia against accepting Dayan. They argued that were Brazil to accept Dayan, this could be understood or presented as tacit approval for Israel’s settlement enterprise. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff reportedly informed Jerusalem that she disapproved of Dayan’s appointment.

Wagner, who is Jewish, is said to have told Ya’alon that “Dayan’s appointment process should continue,” the Israeli daily Haaretz reported in late September. Since then, Wagner has been promoted to the chief of staff of the Presidency, one of Brazil’s most senior positions.

However, if Wagner really supported Dayan’s appointment, sources in Brazil said, the ministry would have long since confirmed it.

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)

The Israeli cabinet approved Dayan’s appointment on September 6, 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.

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.

In Dayan’s case, no agrément has been forthcoming.

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