Israel presses Brazil to accept pro-settler envoy

JERUSALEM/BRASILIA, (Reuters) – Brazil’s reluctance to accept an Israeli ambassador who is a West Bank settler has set off a diplomatic crisis and led to concerns in the Israeli government that the clash could encourage pro-Palestinian activism against it.

The appointment four months ago of Dani Dayan, a former head of the Jewish settlement movement, did not go down well with Brazil’s left-leaning government, which has supported Palestinian statehood in recent years.

Most world powers deem the Jewish settlements illegal.

Israel’s previous ambassador, Reda Mansour, left Brasilia last week and the Israeli government said yesterday Brazil risked degrading bilateral relations if Dayan were not allowed to succeed him.

“The State of Israel will leave the level of diplomatic relations with Brazil at the secondary level if the appointment of Dani Dayan is not confirmed,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Israel’s Channel 10 TV, saying Dayan would remain the sole nominee.

She said Israel would lobby Brasilia through the Brazilian Jewish community, confidants of President Dilma Rousseff and direct appeals from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Brazilian government officials declined to comment on whether Rousseff will accept the nomination of the Argentine-born Dayan. But one senior Foreign Ministry official told Reuters: “I do not see that happening.”

The official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said Israel would have to choose a different envoy because the choice of Dayan has further worsened relations that turned sour in 2010 when Brazil decided to recognise Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and settled.

Israel quit Gaza in 2005 but claims East Jerusalem as its indivisible capital and wants to keep swathes of West Bank settlements under any eventual peace deal with the Palestinians.

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