Israel Erred in Tapping Former Settler Leader as Envoy, Says Adviser to Brazilian President

The fact that Brazil refuses to confirm Dani Dayan's ambassadorial appointment has caused a crisis in the two countries' relationships.

Moti Milrod

Israel made a mistake when it named former settler leader Dani Dayan as its ambassador to Brasilia, said Marco Aurélio Garcia, diplomatic adviser to the Brazilian president, in a public television interview. However, Garcia stressed in the interview that Brazil does not want a diplomatic rift with Israel.

The interview, which took place on Tuesday, is the first time that a senior Brazilian official has publicly mentioned the crisis surrounding the appointment of Dayan, former head of the Yesha Council of West Bank Jewish settlements. "It was a mistake by the Israeli government," Aurélio Garcia said.

In fact, he asserted, Israel's mistake was twofold. First, in contrast to diplomatic protocol, Dayan's appointment was announced before the Israeli government had even advised the Brazilian government. If the protocol had been followed, the whole issue could have been handled discreetly and the embarrassment could have been avoided.

Secondly, Aurélio Garcia said, Brasilia objects to Dayan's appointment because he represents construction in the settlements, and opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state – positions that contradict two key points in Brazil's foreign policy.

However, Aurélio Garcia tried to lower the flames. "We are not in an arm-bending competition with a friendly country like Israel, with which Brazil has excellent relations," he said.

The fact that Brazil refuses to confirm Dayan's ambassadorial appointment has however caused a crisis in the two countries' relationships. At this stage, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists on Dayan and refuses to appoint somebody else in his stead. This means Israel's diplomatic representation in Brasilia has been reduced to the level of deputy ambassador.

In December, Dayan said he felt the Foreign Ministry and Netanyahu had not done enough to pressure the government of Brazil to grant its consent to the appointment.