Diplomatic Crisis Looms as Brazil Withholds Approval of Settler Leader's Ambassadorship

Israel formally requested Brazil to accept Dani Dayan as ambassador four months ago; Brazilian officials say they will not reject appointment outright, but hope Jerusalem 'gets the hint.'

Dani Dayan.
Tomer Appelbaum

The appointment of Dani Dayan as Israel's ambassador to Brazil may spark a serious crisis between the two countries in the upcoming days, as the Brazilian government has withheld its approval of the appointment for over four months, and has even hinted that has no interest in having a former settler leader as Israel's envoy to its capital. 

On Thursday evening, Times of Israel reported that Brazil does not intend to issue its written agreement to Dayan's appointment, without which the appointment cannot go through. A senior Brazilian official told the Times that Brazil will not formally reject the appointment, but is hoping Jerusalem will "get the hint." 

The official added that Brazil's opposition to the appointment stems from Dayan's previous senior positions at the Yesha Council, the Israeli settlements' main representative body, and from the fact that Israel only notified Brazil about the appointment after formally announcing it to the press. 

The Brazilian official's remarks came as a surprise to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where officials said that Israel received no message, official or otherwise, from Brazil that Dayan will not be approved.

Foreign Ministry officials told Haaretz that messages from Brazil led to the opposite impression. For instance, the head of the Latin America desk at the ministry, Modi Ephraim, was told during a visit to Brasilia a few weeks back that discussions over the appointment were ongoing, and that Israel was asked "not to push so as not to interfere." 

Israel officially forwarded Brazil a request to accept Dayan's appointment in August, but the Brazilians have yet to respond. The Foreign Ministry has decided to wait until December before either reassessing the appointment or asking Brazil for a formal clarification about the delay. 

Despite the clear signals leaked by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, senior Israeli diplomats said they haven't given up yet on Dayan's appointment. According to them, the ministry will either make an effort to discuss the issue with Brazil, or will simply wait a few more months to see if Brazil changes its mind. 

A rejection of Dayan's appointment may cause a serious crisis between the two countries. Senior officials at the Foreign Ministry said that as far as they know, Brazil has never turned down an appointment of a foreign ambassador.

A rejection of Dayan's appointment on the grounds of his role in the settlements is likely to instigate severe responses from the Israeli right, and cause pressure from senior members of Netanyahu's coalition to take diplomatic steps against Brazil, going as far as downgrading the relationship between the two countries. 

The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment, saying only: "The issue is being addressed."