Ending Diplomatic Crisis, Brazil Okays Israel's New Ambassador

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Yossi Shelli, appointed in January 2017 to be Israel's ambassador to Brazil, in 2003.
Yossi Shelli, appointed in January 2017 to be Israel's ambassador to Brazil, in 2003.Credit: Ariel Schalit

The government of Brazil has officially informed Israel that it accepts the appointment of Yossi Shelli as Israel’s ambassador, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon announced Tuesday.

Brazil’s approval of the appointment brings to an end the crisis between the two countries over Brasilia’s refusal a year ago to accept Dani Dayan, the former head of the Yesha council of settlements in the West Bank, as Israel's envoy.

“This step, together with appointment of a new ambassador of Brazil in Israel, opens a new era in ties between the countries,” Nahshon said. “There is no doubt that [Shelli's] appointment will promote friendship between our peoples and ties in various areas, including economy and commerce. Brazil is the largest and most central country in Latin America and the seventh-largest economy in the world, and an important and Zionist Jewish community resides there.”

Shelli, a businessman and former Likud activist, is the latest in political-diplomatic appointments made by Netanyahu since he took over the Foreign Ministry portfolio in May 2015.

In 2008, Shelli, who previously served as chairman of the board of directors of the Israel Postal Authority and as director general of the Be’er Sheva Municipality, was indicted for presenting false documents to the Civil Service Commission’s appointments committee. The indictment included charges of lying under oath and aggravated fraud, related to the fact that Shelli had declared that he had no political association with any party, while in fact he was affiliated with Likud. He signed a plea bargain in 2012, in which he confessed to the charge of breaking a legal obligation – a charge for which he was not convicted.

As part of the plea agreement, Shelli was prohibited from assuming any Civil Service position until June 2015.

Shelli’s affiliation to Netanyahu and Likud surfaced again when the possibility of his ambassadorship to Brazil was presented before the Civil Service Commission’s appointments committee. But the panel determined that Shelli’s had “special skills,” both administrative and business-related, that allow him to assume the post and will assist him in that role.

Israel has not had an ambassador in Brasilia for the past year, due the crisis over Dayan’s appointment. Dayan was appointed ambassador in August 2015, with broad support from both coalition and opposition members in the Israeli government. He was expected to leave for Brazil in October 2015, but its government would not accept him. Dayan’s associations with the settlement movement, coupled with a severe political crisis in Brazil, led then-President Dilma Rousseff to delay approval.

As time went by, there were more and more signs indicating that Brasilia was intentionally postponing its response. Senior Brazilian officials eventually told the media that Brazil would not approve Dayan due to his former position as head of the Yesha council, but also because Jerusalem had breached diplomatic protocol by declaring Dayan’s appointment without previous coordination with Brasilia.

The Brazilian position led to a deep crisis between the two countries. For several months, Prime Minister Netanyahu kept supporting Dayan’s appointment on principle, and did not come up with an alternative. This meant that Israel’s diplomatic representation in Brazil was at the level of deputy ambassador only, until now.

Last August, Dayan was appointed to serve as Israel's consul general in New York.

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