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Israel walks back dropping Dani Dayan for Brazil envoy post

An hour after Foreign Ministry surprisingly declares ex-settler leader is no longer candidate for ambassador post, it blames false announcement on technical mistake

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)

Ex-settler leader Dani Dayan remains Israel’s candidate for the ambassadorship in Brazil, the Foreign Ministry declared Thursday, hours after diplomatic officials said his controversial candidacy had been withdrawn.

““Dani Dayan continues to be our designated ambassador,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said in a message to reporters Thursday afternoon.

Hours earlier, the Foreign Ministry’s human resource department had 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 had told The Times of Israel.

Nahshon initially confirmed in a WhatsApp message to reporters that a “new tender for the position of ambassador to Brazil” had been published.

An hour later, Nahshon said the original message had been a mistake.

“The tender that was published this morning, which also included other positions, was due to a technical error. That is to say that the position of ambassador in Brazil is not vacant,” he wrote.

The about-face means a months-long standoff between Jerusalem and Brasilia over the appointment is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Dayan, who was said by a source to have been surprised and shocked by the initial move, was typically sardonic on Twitter.

“For one hour, I was happy personally that I was freed from the pretty embarrassing situation I am in; and I felt sorry that the State of Israel gave in to boycotts. Now it’s again the opposite,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his nomination of Dayan as Israel’s new 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, first anonymously and later on the record. But Jerusalem refused to back down. At a January press conference for foreign journalists, Netanyahu made plain that he had no intention of replacing Dayan. “I believe that Danny Dayan is an exceptionally qualified candidate,” he said. “And he remains my candidate.”

The Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Latin America is one of the main objectives of the State of Israel in the context of its efforts to develop markets that will contribute to increasing economic growth,” Netanyahu declared last August, on the day he named Dayan for the ambassador job.

In a press release about the appointment at the time, the Prime Minister’s Office explained the importance of good ties with Brazil, stating that a fifth of the country’s 200 million citizens are “pro-Israel Christians.” Jerusalem has therefore “set as a goal the development of commercial links with international markets in South America, especially Brazil,” the prime minister said.

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