Opposition leaders unite behind PM’s choice for envoy to Brazil

Lapid, Herzog join Knesset speaker in calling Brazilian ambassador after ex-Israeli diplomats try to scupper Dani Dayan’s appointment

Former Yesha Council leader Dani Dayan (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
Former Yesha Council leader Dani Dayan (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog of Zionist Union and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid on Monday called the Brazilian ambassador in Israel, Henrique Sardinha Pinto, to express support for Dani Dayan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nominee for the post of Israeli ambassador to Brasilia.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein of Likud also informed the ambassador of his support for Dayan, and all three expressed the hope that Brazil would accept the appointment.

Lapid tweeted: “I spoke to the Brazilian ambassador. I disagree with Dani Dayan, but he will be a fine ambassador. It is unacceptable that Israelis are trying to influence from abroad the decisions of an elected government.”

Edelstein also instructed his diplomatic adviser, Oded Ben Hur, to speak with the Brazilian ambassador. The Knesset speaker wanted Ben Hur to pass on the message that Dayan’s appointment is a solid one and attempts to stymie it should be rejected.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is unhappy with the appointment of Dayan as Israeli Ambassador. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/EVARISTO SA)
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/EVARISTO SA)

Herzog, Lapid and Edelstein all contacted the Brazilian ambassador separately, the Walla news website reported.

The effort came after a group of left-wing activists asked the Brazilian government to reject the appointment of Dayan, who in the past served as head of the Yesha Council, a committee representing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Alon Liel served as the Foreign Ministry's director-general from November 2000 until April 2001 (courtesy)
Alon Liel served as the Foreign Ministry’s director-general from November 2000 until April 2001 (courtesy)

Among those activists are Alon Liel, a former Foreign Ministry director general who also served as ambassador to South Africa, former envoy to South Africa Ilan Baruch and former ambassador to France Eli Bar Navi.

Some two weeks ago, after the government approved the appointment of Dayan, a native of Buenos Aires and a fluent speaker of Hebrew, Spanish and English, the three ex-diplomats met with Pinto and the Brazilian envoy to the Palestinian Authority, and asked that the Foreign Ministry in Brasilia reject Dayan’s appointment.

The process of appointment includes a potential ambassador submitting his or her credentials to the host country. If the credentials are rejected, the appointment cannot proceed.

Liel told Haaretz on Sunday that the members of the group told the two Brazilian envoys that Dayan is ideologically committed to a policy that Brazil itself sees as illegitimate under international law, namely, the existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. They added that Dayan opposes the two-state solution and that accepting his appointment would send a negative message to Israelis and Palestinians who support it.

“We told them that Dayan is the foreign minister of settlements,” Liel said.

On Monday, Shelly Yachimovich, a senior MK from Labor, part of the Zionist Union amalgamation of parties, took to Facebook to fiercely criticize Liel, Bar Navi and Baruch.

“It is so annoying and outrageous that in my political camp people behave in a manner which is lowly, despicable and – excuse me – idiotic,” she wrote.

“What the hell were ‘the three former ambassadors’ thinking when they turned to Brazil’s government to convince it not to accept the appointment of the former head of the Yesha Council and my friend (Yes! My friend!) Dani Dayan to the position of ambassador to Brazil because he lives in the settlements?” she asked.

Yacimovich said there was “an ideological chasm” between herself and Dayan, but that he was “remarkably suitable” for the position. She praised Dayan as “one of the most experienced, wisest and tolerant of public figures, a bright example of intelligent dialogue between right and left, and a man who can, when necessary, be a sharp critic of his own camp.”

Yachimovich reminded her colleagues that “there is a right-wing government in Israel. It was elected democratically by the citizens of the state and appoints ambassadors, some from the diplomatic corps and some who reflect its worldview – just as past governments have done.”

She slammed her colleagues for not raising the red flag when Netanyahu appointed Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman as foreign minister in the previous government, despite the latter living in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

“Dani Dayan, to highlight the difference, is not tainted by even a speck of corruption,” she wrote, alluding to multiple corruption affairs involving Liberman., who was ultimately acquitted of all charges.

The only problem with Dayan going to Brazil, Yachimovich wrote, was that “we will so badly miss him here, as a person who contributed so much to a sane dialogue of mutual respect between right and left.”

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