The standoff between Israel and Brazil over the nomination of a prominent settler leader to become the Israeli ambassador has important implications for the future of Israeli diplomacy and its place in the international community.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose the former head of the settlers’ Yesha Council Dani Dayan to be Israel’s ambassador to Brasilia four months ago — but the Brazilian government has not accepted him. Now, amid rising anger on both sides, Netanyahu has said he would not fill the vacant ambassadorial post at all if Dayan could not assume the position. This would amount to a downgrade in the relations between the two nations.
Although one can state support in principle for the idea that a sovereign nation has the right to choose its own envoys, Dayan’s choice was bound to be seen as a provocative step in Brazil. He has been the public face of the settler movement. The Yesha Council’s website describes him in these words: “A staunch opponent of the two-state formula, his stance on Israeli settlements is clear; they are here to stay and any future peace agreement will have to take that reality into account.”
Dayan’s nomination is just the latest example of how opponents of the two-state solution and proponents of the settlements are taking over more and more top positions in Israel’s foreign ministry. Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon is on record as calling territorial concessions to the Palestinians “dangerous” and has argued for Israel to annex the occupied territories.
In a 2013 interview, he said: “My goal is to annex, or ‘apply sovereignty’, as I prefer to call it, to the land in Judea and Samaria with the minimum amount of Palestinians. So, if I am doing the map, yes, I want the majority of the land with the minimum amount of Palestinians.”
Deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, who is now the top official in the building (the post of Foreign Minister is occupied by Netanyahu) is another opponent of a two-state solution. She pledged last July: “We will achieve our dream of Greater Israel, where a Jew can build everywhere.”
And let’s not forget Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, who recently sent out holiday gift packages of products made in the settlements to protest against a new European Community directive calling for such products to be labeled as coming from the settlements rather than Israel.
The fact that Netanyahu is willing to send political appointees from the settler movement to take so many senior diplomatic posts traditionally occupied by career foreign service officials also demonstrates the extent to which the settler movement has taken control of Israeli foreign policy.
This preponderance of opponents of a two-state solution, which is still the stated aim of Netanyahu, in key diplomatic positions is deepening Israel’s isolation in the world. It raises the question as to whether these envoys and officials are ambassadors of Israel or ambassadors of the settlements.