Foreign Ministry's Greatest Fear Realized: The Settlers Are Coming

Behind the campaign against the appointment of settler leader Dani Dayan as ambassador to Brazil lie the fears that the proud nationalists are daring to come out of the sidelines.

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Dani Dayan.
Dani Dayan.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

It seems that Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit and MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) did not delve too deeply into the dirty methods being used in the bid to block Dani Dayan’s appointment as ambassador to Brazil. Like other decent people, Shavit and Yacimovich emphasized Dayan’s skills, good personal characteristics and his suitability to the position, despite their ideological differences with him. But it is actually Dayan’s suitability to the post that is keeping his detractors awake at night.

Here is the conspiratorial thought that guides them: After settling into places of influence — such as the Israel Defense Forces, the security services, the media, academia and even, very gradually, the judicial system — where in the past they had been shunted to the sidelines, now “they” are daring to settle in the Foreign Ministry, too.

To prevent this desecration, all means are permitted, allowed, including a delegitimization campaign in Brazil itself. The name may be Dani Dayan, but the target is the spread of a nationalist perspective in Israeli public diplomacy, which until now they have managed to prevent in the ministry that is supposed to carry and represent it, especially when this is the government’s foreign policy.

This conduct continues even after decades of official Likud rule. The ministry’s old guard, which never fully came to terms with the change of government, dictated the public diplomacy line and the appointments policy (with the exception of political appointments — a few of which were truly inappropriate, but for personal and performance reasons).

Consuls and ambassadors, who as civil servants are supposed to be loyal to the policies of the government, which they ostensibly represent, did exactly as they pleased — sometimes in demonstrative defiance — in order to represent their own oppositionary, and even extremist, positions.

I was convinced of this on more than one occasion while hearing their remarks in both Jewish and non-Jewish forums overseas. All the talk by old-timers in the Foreign Ministry about the lack of “professionalism” of Dayan and Fiamma Nirenstein, who has been nominated Israeli ambassador to Italy, is hypocrisy. In the most critical areas, a “professional foreign service” has only existed under left-wing governments in Israel.

Nirenstein is not a settler, but in the intensity of her activities to vindicate Zionism — and the settlements — around the world, she outdoes many “hard-core” settlers. For decades she has attacked Israel’s opponents from a variety of platforms, including Italian media outlets, the Italian parliament — in which she previously served — and the European Parliament. She does so with a momentum that no serving Israeli ambassador comes close to matching. True, this style, this faith, evoke the discomfort of the Foreign Ministry’s “rational” establishment, but it is exactly what the ministry needs: belief in the justness of the way, and passion and a sense of mission in expressing this belief.

Anyone who reported that “Italian Jewry” is opposed to the nominee ambassador is in error. True, there are those who are bothered by Nirenstein’s style — especially the question of “dual loyalty” (which points to a Diaspora-Jewish lack of self-confidence). But none of the people who fought her in the Israeli media bothered to examine what the vast majority of the Jews in Italy think. Had they done so, as some Italian media outlets did, they would have discovered that Italian Jews are very proud of her.

After many years, too many, of presenting Israel apologetically — sometimes even while agreeing with its harshest critics — the buds of a different style of representation are beginning to appear: envoys who believe deeply in Israel’s righteousness and can express this with great skill and in a clear voice.

We must hope that the breach of the nominee ambassadors will give way to a much greater stream. It is precisely against this breach that the campaign to defame Dayan and Nirenstein is being waged.