After a long political battle over a controversial diplomatic appointment which deeply embittered relations between Israel and Brazil, Israel has backed down, withdrawing a nomination of Dani Dayan as its ambassador to Brasilia and announcing Monday that Dayan will instead become Israel’s consul general in New York.
The fight began in August of 2015, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first announced the appointment of Dayan, a former leader of the Jewish settlement movement in Judea and Samaria, as Israel’s choice for ambassador to Brazil. Judea and Samaria are the Biblical heartland of Israel, but viewed by much of the world as “occupied”.
The appointment was met with cold silence by Brasilia’s left-leaning government, which refused to accept – or reject – the appointment, leaving it formally unacknowledged, although several Brazilian officials later voiced the leadership’s repudiation. Under objection were both Dayan’s tenure as leader of the Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Council and the unorthodox manner in which his appointment was announced.
For months, Israel insisted Brazil would be offered no other ambassadorial candidate, but Brasilia remained steadfast in its refusal. Finally, on March 17, Israel advertised a tender for the position, along with ambassadorships in Eritrea and Hungary.
At the time, a senior diplomatic official told The Times of Israel, “That means Dani Dayan is no longer our candidate for the post.”
While Israel retracted the tender for Brasilia later the same day, insisting it stood by Dayan’s candidacy, Monday’s announcement indicates Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s foreign minister, has moved on.
It should be noted that even before Brasilia expressed its disapproval of Dayan’s candidacy, he had expressed to Netanyahu his interest in serving as Israel’s consul general in New York.
“I believe I can implement an Israeli public diplomacy revolution in North America, whose beating heart is New York,” Dayan said in a statement. “I will be sure to conduct comprehensive and respectful dialogue with all segments of American Jewry — Orthodox and Reform, liberals and conservatives, and with supporters of both parties [Republican and Democratic], all while representing the positions of the State of Israel faithfully and devotedly.”
He told Israel Army Radio his greatest challenge would be “to state Israel’s positions in liberal language.”
The decision has been met with praise in many quarters. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely expressed her congratulations, adding in a statement that his appointment to “one of the most strategic” cities in the United States was “an important message to the world.
“The State of Israel will benefit from a worthy representative who lives in the settlements of Judea and Samaria [Dayan hails from Ma’ale Shomron] and will bear an important message to the effect that the State of Israel stands behind Dani as a loyal and worthy representative of the state,” she said.
The Yesha Council had words of praise for Dayan’s appointment, as well, calling him “an ethical man with a lot of experience in public and international diplomacy” and predicting his success in the role.
Dayan will be replacing Ido Aharoni as consul general.
While the decision to appoint Dayan in New York instead of Brazil can be seen as capitulation to anti-Israel advocates, Dayan himself prefers to interpret things differently.
“Those who didn’t want a settler leader as ambassador in their capital got a settler leader in the capital of the world,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, it’s a victory over BDS.”