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Brazilian Official Displeased by Israeli Pick for Ambassador

  • Associated Press

FILE - Dani Dayan speaks during a meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Dec. 21, 2009.

FILE - Dani Dayan speaks during a meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Dec. 21, 2009.

A senior Brazilian official is expressing unhappiness at Israel's nomination of a former West Bank settler leader to be the new ambassador to the South American nation, calling the action "a false step.''

Israel nominated Dani Dayan in August, but Brazil has not yet responded. Brazilian officials had remained largely mute on the reasons for the holdup until comments Tuesday to the state-run broadcaster TV Brazil by President Dilma Rousseff's special adviser on foreign affairs, Marco Aurelio Garcia.

Garcia said Dayan is known to hold opinions contrary to two important points of Brazilian foreign policy: its opposition to West Bank settlements and support of a future Palestinian state. Dayan is a former chairman of a council representing West Bank settlers.

"I think it was a false step made by the Israeli government,'' Garcia said, adding that Israel broke diplomatic conventions by making Dayan's name public before Brazil had accepted the nomination.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly voiced his support for Dayan. In response to a question from a Brazilian journalist last week, Netanyahu insisted, "He's a great candidate. He is my candidate.''

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories claimed by the Palestinians for their future state — in the 1967 Mideast War. While Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, nearly 600,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The international community, along with the Palestinians, widely opposes the settlements, saying they undercut the goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The standoff over Dayan follows earlier flare-ups between Israel and Brazil, whose leaders have been vocal advocates of the Palestinian cause in recent years.

In 2010, the Brazilian government recognized the state of Palestine along the pre-1967 lines. Under Rousseff's leadership, Brazil also backed Palestine in a key U.N. vote in 2012, and in 2014 it recalled its ambassador from Israel to protest a military offensive against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israel said the offensive was necessary to halt heavy rocket fire out of Gaza, and an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman subsequently called Brazil a "diplomatic dwarf,'' angering the Brazilians and forcing Israel's president to issue an apology.

Despite the differences, Israel and Brazil enjoy strong trade ties.