Israel: Brazil fomenting diplomatic crisis over failure to OK envoy

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Israel’s deputy foreign minister said Brazil is likely to fuel a diplomatic crisis by withholding consent for its choice of ambassador, a former settler leader.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, declared Sunday that the Jewish state will use a number of channels to secure the nomination of Dani Dayan, saying no other name will be put up for the post.

President Dilma Rousseff withholding consent to Dani Dayan because of his settler background appears to be unprecedented.

Brazil has not officially signaled its apparent objection to Dayan since he was confirmed by the Israeli Cabinet in September and the end of the current envoy’s term. In September, Rousseff expressed discomfort with his appointment, saying it would signal “support for the settlement enterprise.”

The Argentina-born Dayan, 50, a former head of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements, was tapped for the post by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in August. The following month, Rousseff sent a back-channel message disapproving of Dayan’s appointment after leftist Brazilians and Israelis lobbied against it, but has taken no official action.

Dayan said in interviews over the weekend with Israeli media that Netanyahu “hasn’t pressured Brazil enough to accept my appointment.”

“This will change,” he added.

If the Israeli government does not act in Dayan’s case, it could create a precedent barring settlers from representing Israel abroad.

Brazil’s four-month apathy is seen by many as the response of a left-wing government. A Brazilian congressman compared Dayan’s appointment by Israel to the hypothetical nomination of a former Nazi concentration camp guard by Germany and the choice of a former torturer from the apartheid regime by South Africa.

Others say the failure to act is a late retaliation for having been called a “diplomatic dwarf” by a senior Israeli diplomat in 2014 after the South American nation recalled its ambassador for consultations to protest Israel’s attack on Hamas in Gaza during that summer’s Gaza war.

Over 1,500 Brazilian Jews and non-Jews signed a pro-Dayan petition last week in response to a petition signed by nearly 200 so-called “progressive Jews” sent to Brazilian congressmen from openly anti-Israel parties objecting to the nomination.

“It is a totally outrageous and biased dual attitude against Israel,” Szyja Lorber, one of the pro-Dayan petition creators, told JTA. “Brazil has accepted ambassadors from countries like Iran, Sudan and Syria, which commit barbaric atrocities against their civil population, executions and human rights violations. The prejudice against Israel comes from senior officials in Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in a blind and near childish decision.”

Brazilian senior military have expressed concern about the envoy furor, since Israel is a key partner to transfer technology to various military projects in Brazil, according to an interview published by Brazil’s most influential newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo.

In September, three senior Israeli politicians known as being anti-Dayan asked Brazil’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, Henrique Sardinha, to help insure the ratification of Dayan to take over the embassy in Brasilia.

Israeli envoy Reda Mansour left his position in Brasilia in early December after serving only one year, citing family matters for resigning. A Druze-Israeli, Mansour was considered an excellent pick to express Israel’s multicultural element in Brazil.

“Brazil and Israel have kept cordial diplomatic ties for 68 years, and such friendly countries must respect one another,” Osias Wurman, Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, told JTA. “The nomination of an ambassador is a sovereign act. Refusing a resident of an area currently under Israeli-Palestinian shared administration means creating second-class citizens in a country that does not accept such not even for its non-Jewish citizens.”

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