‘Brazilian president rejects settler leader as Israeli envoy’

Dilma Rousseff faced pressure from organizations seeking to veto Dani Dayan as ambassador due to his past activism

Raoul Wootliff is the producer and occasional host of the Times of Israel Daily Briefing podcast.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. (AFP PHOTO/EVARISTO SA)
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. (AFP PHOTO/EVARISTO SA)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has told Israel that she is unhappy with the appointment of former settler leader Dani Dayan as ambassador to her country, the Ynet news site reported Sunday.

Rousseff is worried that accepting Dayan as ambassador would be understood as support of Israeli settlements, the report said.

The communique reportedly came as part of back-channel messages between Rio de Janeiro and Jerusalem in an attempt to warn Prime Minister Netanyahu not to go ahead with the appointment. While the rejection of an ambassador by a host country is rare, governments sometimes encourage the withdrawal of certain appointments to avoid diplomatic confrontations.

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

If Israel goes ahead with the appointment as planned and receives a formal rejection from Brazil, it would be seen as diplomatic crisis, damaging the closer ties the two countries have developed in recent years.

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.

Just days ago, Brazil surprised many by abstaining on a resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference to impose monitoring of Israel nuclear sites. Joining Brazil in abstaining was India, another country with which Israel has been working on building closer ties following the election of Israel-friendly Narendra Modi as prime minister in 2014.

The Israeli government approved Dayan’s appointment on August 6, a month after Netanyahu announced his intention to appoint him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with Dani Dayan, January 9, 2013 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with Dani Dayan, the former head of the Yesha settler’s council, on January 9, 2013 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

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.

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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