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Israel Increases Pressure on Brazil to Accept Settler Leader as Ambassador

The Brazilian government's four-month-long delay in confirming the appointment of Dani Dayan has been understood as stemming from disapproval for his former leadership of the settlement movement in the West Bank.
Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/AP

A diplomatic impasse over the Brazilian government's reluctance to accept a former leader of the Jewish settlement movement as Israeli ambassador appears to be reaching a head.

Dani Dayan was named as Israel's next ambassador to Brazil in August to replace outgoing ambassador Reda Mansour. Four months later, the Brazilian government has still not accepted Dayan for the position.

Israel's deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, told Israeli TV this weekend that relations between Israel and Brazil would be left "at a secondary level if the appointment of Dani Dayan is not confirmed."


While there has been never been an official explanation for the delay, it has been understood as a sign that the government of President Dilma Rousseff disapproves of Dayan's past in charge of the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry in Brasília also remained resolutely silent in the immediate aftermath of the most recent remarks from Jerusalem.

Dayan's naming, however, has prompted vocal opposition from the start among circles linked to the Brazilian government that recognized the state of Palestine in 2010, when then president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made an official visit.

Related: Israel Destroys Palestinian Homes After Announcing New Settlements

More than 40 Brazilian social movements, including some associated with the government, signed a petition in August claiming the appointment went against "the basic rights of the Palestinian people."

Another petition against Dayan's appointment was signed in November by 200 Brazilian Jews and sent to the Foreign Affairs Commission. Dozens of left wing congressmen have also campaigned against approving Mr Dayan as ambassador.

Celso Amorim, a former Brazilian foreign and defence minister, said it was "time the Brazilian armed forces reduced their dependence on Israel".

Earlier this year, it was reported by Brazilian magazine Terra that President Dilma Rousseff had sent messages "through diplomatic channels" to express her disapproval at the choice of Dayan for ambassador. It has also been widely reported that the tension was also fueled by the perceived diplomatic insult of Jerusalem announcing Dayan's appointment on Twitter, before informing Brazil's foreign office.


With signs emerging earlier this month that Israel was running out of patience, Brazilian media compared the treatment of Dayan to the recent nomination of Argentina's new ambassador to Brazil that was approved in three days.

An official statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry cited the "deep friendship and trust between the two countries" behind the speed of that appointment.

Last week there were also hints that members of the Brazilian armed forces are not happy about the situation.

"It is a lack of geopolitical vision and objectivity of action," a senior military official told the newspaper Folha de São Paulo. "For the armed forces, it's a very sensitive situation because we have a great partnership with Israeli high-tech companies."

Dayan himself told Channel 2's "Meet the Press" program that Brazil should not set a precedent for rejecting diplomats on ideological grounds.

With the foreign ministry turning down requests for comment, a senior official told Reuters that it was unlikely Rousseff's government will suddenly confirm his appointment. "I do not see that happening," he said.

Related: Brazil Opens Impeachment Proceedings Against President Rousseff

Follow Donna Bowater on Twitter: @DonnaBow