Skip to main content

Israel withdraws nomination of key settler for Brazil ambassadorship

After an eight-month diplomatic deadlock, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed Dani Dayan as consul general to New York
This file photo taken on 15 February 2016 shows Israeli political leader Danny Dayan during a conference at the Menahem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel withdrew its nomination of a controversial high-profile settler figure as the ambassador to Brazil on Monday, ending months of diplomatic division after Brasilia refused to accept Israel’s selection.

Argentinian-born Dani Dayan, who lives in the Maale Shomron settlement in the West Bank and used to head the Yesha settler council, was appointed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as ambassador in August last year, and pending approval from Brasilia was set to begin his tenure in October 2015. 

However, pressure and lobbying from Brazilian opposition figures prompted President Dilma Rousseff’s government to stall, and Dayan was not officially confirmed for the post, with the government pinning the delay on Dayan's opposition to an independent Palestinian state and Israel’s failure to consult Brazilian authorities. 

Under diplomatic customs, ambassadorial appointments must be endorsed by the host nation. However, if an endorsement does not happen within two months, it is widely understood that the choice has not been accepted. 

The incident has strained relations between the two countries, with the Israeli government calling Brazil a “diplomatic dwarf” and one which created "problems" rather than "contributes to solutions”.

Netanyahu has instead appointed Dayan to be the Israeli consul general in New York, in a move that was received warmly by Israeli’s right-wing deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely, who pointed out previously that Dayan’s case was the first instance in which a proposed Israeli diplomat had been rejected for his “ideological” views.

“The appointment of Dani to one of the strategic locations in the United States is an important statement to the world,” she said.

“Israel will be blessed with a worthy representative who lives in [one of the] settlements in Judea and Samaria,” she continued, using the biblical term for the West Bank. "And [he] will carry an important message that the Israeli government stands behind Dani as a faithful representative of the state.”

Dayan is expected to replace veteran diplomat Ido Aharoni, the current consul general in New York, for a five-year term starting this summer.

Commenting on his new role in the US, Dayan described it as a victory rather than a capitulation to Brazil’s cold shoulder.

“I don’t think that we folded. There was no choice,” Dayan said at a conference opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) in Jerusalem on Monday.

“Those who don’t want me in Brasília will get me in the capital of the world, and to me that is a victory. I believe I can revolutionise Israeli public relations in the US, whose beating heart is in New York.”

A senior official at the Prime Minister's Office said on Sunday that Israel will not be appointing a new ambassador at this stage.