Capitulating in the face of implacable opposition from Brasilia, Israel on Monday walked back former settler leader Dani Dayan’s appointment as ambassador to Brazil. Instead, the Prime Minister’s Office announced, Dayan will be sent to New York to serve as Israel’s consul general there.
The announcement put an end to a months-long standoff between Jerusalem and Brasilia, which had steadfastly rejected Dayan’s appointment.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s foreign minister, had announced the nomination of Dayan as ambassador to Brazil on August 5, 2015. But after a few months, it emerged that Brasilia was refusing to accept Dayan due to his past as chairman of the Yesha Council, a committee representing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and also due to the unorthodox way in which his appointment was announced.
Brazilian officials confirmed their government’s refusal to accept Dayan, a resident of Ma’ale Shomron in the West Bank, first anonymously and later on the record, but Jerusalem refused to back down. In January Netanyahu made plain that he had no intention of replacing Dayan. “I believe that Dani Dayan is an exceptionally qualified candidate,” he told foreign journalists at a press conference, “and he remains my candidate.”
But on March 17, after two more months sticking to its guns, the Foreign Ministry’s human resource department published a tender for the ambassadorships in Brasilia, Asmara (in Eritrea) and Budapest.
“This morning the human resource department of the Foreign Ministry published a tender for the post of ambassador in Brasilia. That means Dani Dayan is no longer our candidate for the post,” a senior diplomatic official told The Times of Israel at the time.
Although the Foreign Ministry retracted the tender later that day, insisting that Dayan remained its candidate for the ambassadorship, Monday’s announcement confirms that Brazil has succeeded in thwarting the controversial appointment.
Dayan said on Monday that already in August, before Brasilia rejected him, he apprised Netanyahu of his desire to serve as consul general in New York.
“I believe I can implement an Israeli public diplomacy revolution in North America, whose beating heart is New York,” he added in a statement. “I will be sure to conduct comprehensive and respectful dialogue with all segments of American Jewry — Orthodox and Reform, liberals and conservatives, and with supporters of both parties [Republican and Democratic], all while representing the positions of the State of Israel faithfully and devotedly.”
Dayan will succeed Ido Aharoni in the role.
In an interview with Army Radio, he said that his greatest challenge as consul general would be “to state Israel’s positions in liberal language.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely extended her congratulations to Dayan, saying in a statement that his appointment to “one of the most strategic” cities in the United States was “an important message to the world.
“The State of Israel will benefit from a worthy representative who lives in the settlements of Judea and Samaria and will bear an important message to the effect that the State of Israel stands behind Dani as a loyal and worthy representative of the state,” she said.
The Yesha Council praised the “worthwhile appointment by Prime Minister Netanyahu,” lauding Dayan as “an ethical man with a lot of experience in public and international diplomacy” and predicting that he would succeed in his new post.
Dayan, speaking at a conference Monday morning on the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement in Jerusalem, admitted that BDS activists had some influence on Brasilia’s decision to reject him as ambassador. Still, he reinterpreted his appointment in New York as a success for Israel.
“Those who didn’t want a settler leader as ambassador in their capital got a settler leader in the capital of the world,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, it’s a victory over BDS.”