Israel backs down in spat with Brazil over settler envoy

Dani Dayan reassigned to New York after Brasilia balked at his appointment

Brazil’s left-leaning government, which has supported Palestinian statehood in recent years, had balked at accepting Israel’s appointment in August of former settler leader Dani Dayan (pictured) as envoy. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters.

Brazil’s left-leaning government, which has supported Palestinian statehood in recent years, had balked at accepting Israel’s appointment in August of former settler leader Dani Dayan (pictured) as envoy. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters.

 

In an embarrassing diplomatic U-turn, Israel has withdrawn the nomination of former settler leader Dani Dayan as ambassador to Brazil, ending a seven-month diplomatic stand-off with the Brazilian government, which refused to accept his credentials.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, said Mr Dayan has been appointed to the position of consul general in New York instead of being posted to Brazil.

Mr Dayan, a former chairman of the Yesha West Bank settlers’ council who went on to act as the organisation’s chief foreign policy envoy, lives in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Shomron. He was nominated in August as ambassador to Brazil.

Brazil’s left-leaning government, which supports Palestinian statehood, in a rare diplomatic snub refused to approve the appointment. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff passed on messages to Israel that she was uncomfortable with the appointment because of Mr Dayan’s ties to West Bank settlements.

In January Mr Netanyahu stressed that he had no intention of backing down. “I believe that Dani Dayan is an exceptionally qualified candidate,” he told foreign journalists at a press conference, “and he remains my candidate.”

Monday’s announcement confirmed that Brazil succeeded in thwarting the controversial appointment.

“I’ll tell you a secret: when the prime minister asked me to serve as ambassador in Brasilia, I asked for the office of consul general in New York instead. Now I’m getting what I think I know how to do best,” said Mr Dayan. Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem on Monday on how Israel can best combat the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, Mr Dayan admitted that BDS activists had some influence on Brasilia’s decision to reject him as ambassador.

“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.”

Deputy foreign minister Tzippi Hotovely, who had threatened that Israel would downgrade its relations with Brazil and be represented by a second-tier diplomat if Mr Dayan was not accepted, said his appointment to New York sends “an important message that the Israeli government stood behind Dayan as its faithful and worthy representative.

The Yesha council praised the “worthwhile appointment”, lauding Mr Dayan as “an ethical man with a lot of experience in public and international diplomacy.”