Deputy FM Hotovely: Israel to Step Up Pressure on Brazil for Settler Leader's Ambassadorship

Israel will use a number of channel to secure Brazil's consent to the nomination of Dani Dayan, the former head of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements, Hotovely says.

Moti Milrod

The Foreign Ministry expects to step up the pressure on Brazil to approve the appointment of former West Bank settlement leader Dani Dayan as Israel's ambassador to Brazil, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Sunday.

The Brazilian government has been withholding its consent to Dayan's appointment for the past four months. In an interview with Haaretz last week, Dayan suggested the delay was because he is a West Bank Jewish settler. Hotovely commented on the issue of Dayan's appointment at the end of a meeting with Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's diplomatic adviser Jonathan Schachter.

Based on a statement released by Hotovely and comments that she has made in recent days, it could have been understood that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, was present at the meeting as well, but he was not. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said it was a preliminary meeting ahead of broader deliberations on Thursday to be attended by the prime minister.

Hotovely noted that at Sunday's meeting it was decided to recommend to Netanyahu that Israel not withdraw Dayan's appointment, despite the stance of the Brazilian government. Israel's representation at its embassy in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, would remain at the level of deputy ambassador until Dayan's appointment is approved in Brazil, it was resolved.

The proposed plan would have Israel step up both public pressure and pressure through diplomatic channels on Brazil to consent to the appointment, she said, and the Israeli Foreign Ministry would also work via a number of players in Brazil to underline the fact that Israel "would view the disqualification of the Dayan's appointment based on his political views with gravity."

In the course of the meeting, the ministry's action plan on the issue was presented for approval by Netanyahu later in the week. The first stage of the proposed plan involves summoning the Brazilian ambassador in Israel immediately after the first of the year, when he would be told that the failure to grant consent to Dayan's appointment would result in a severe crisis between the two countries.

At the same time, the Israeli embassy in Brasilia is to initiate activity vis-à-vis the Jewish community and friends of Israel in Brazil to enlist their support for Dayan's appointment. The embassy is also to work with Brazilian members of parliament urging them to publicly support Dayan as ambassador. One of the messages that will be conveyed to the Brazilians is that Dayan's nomination has support from across the political spectrum in Israel, Hotovely noted. 

"The Foreign Ministry will use all the tools at its disposal to have Dani Dayan's appointment go through," she said. "The state of Israel will not accept the phenomenon of disqualifying an ambassador over [his] ideological background, and we will act through diplomatic means to make that known in the clearest fashion."

Sunday's meeting came after Dayan broke a five-month silence on the issue over the weekend, publicly criticizing the Foreign Ministry and Netanyahu. In an interview with Haaretz, Dayan claimed the government has not done enough to apply pressure on Brazil to obtain its consent to the nomination.

"The Foreign Ministry, including the foreign minister who is also the prime minister, believe up to this point that the way to deal with the situation that has been created is a policy of sit and do nothing," Dayan said, adding that they were acting on the assumption, that "like in the famous Jewish joke, either the dog will die or the nobleman will," Dayan said. "I don't exclude the possibility that there are also those who hope that I will either be the dog or the nobleman and simply announce that I am withdrawing my candidacy and solve the problem for them."

The ambassador designate warned that if Israel lets Brazil's refusal to approve the nomination due to the fact that he is a settler stand, it would create a dangerous precedent. "The Israeli response to the current instance will determine how the host country for the next ambassador from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is appointed, or heaven forbid, create a reality in which hundreds of thousands of Israelis are disqualified from serving as ambassadors because of their place of residence and that Israel will be reconciled to it," he said.