One of President Jair Bolsonaro’s closest foreign ambassadors, Israeli Yossi Shelley announced on Wednesday (24) that he was stepping down.
“After four years of hard work, I can say that I feel part of this huge and beautiful country at heart,” Shelley wrote on a social network.
He posted photos of the tributes he received from Itamaraty and the president’s family, in a demonstration of his closeness to the current government.
Shelley was decorated by Minister Ernesto Araújo with the National Order of Cruzeiro do Sul, the main distinction bestowed by Brazil on foreign personalities.
The federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP) was also present at the tribute, whose ambassador received a bottle of wine “Bolsonaro – Il Mito”, a cabernet sauvignon produced by the producers of Serra Gaúcha in honor Of the president.
In his farewell message, the Ambassador thanked “for being so well received by the Brazilian people and for the friendship and partnership with the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, his family and all who have been to my side during this incredible journey ”.
“Life being made of cycles, the time has come to put an end to this cycle of which I am very proud,” said him, who was appointed in 2017, still under the leadership of Michel Temer (MDB).
Shelley became friends with Bolsonaro after his election. His departure marks the end of a period in which the personal relationship between the ambassador and the president was an important component of Brazil’s political alliance with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Businessman and former leader of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Shelley will be replaced by Danny Zonshine as ambassador. The representative who enters and what leaves cannot be more different, both in origin and in style.
To begin with, Zonshine is a career diplomat, who has held senior positions in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held important positions, such as the Embassy in Myanmar and the Consulate in Mumbai (India).
In 2001, he was political adviser at the Israeli embassy in Brasilia and speaks Portuguese on average.
Plus, Zonshine is more low-key than Shelley, which isn’t difficult. The current ambassador has made himself known in Brazilian diplomatic circles for his outspoken style, freely exposing his proximity to Bolsonaro on social networks.
One of the best-known episodes of this relationship was “lagostagate,” when he posted a photo with Bolsonaro at the Shellfish Lunch in July 2019.
The image was amateurishly blurred in the photo, in an unsuccessful attempt not to offend Orthodox Jews, for whom consumption of the animal is opposed. But the damage was done.
In the same year, he also accompanied the President to football matches and participated with him in the March for Jesus, the country’s main evangelical event, in São Paulo.
So much privacy ended up bothering much of Brazil’s Jewish community, for conveying the mistaken idea of automatic alignment with the president.
Whenever criticized, Shelley said the relationship with Bolsonaro was a true friendship, with the added benefit of cementing the alliance between the two countries and helping in bilateral relations, not just economic.
An example of a practical country-to-country proximity effect occurred during the Brumadinho (MG) disaster in January 2019, when Israel sent a specialist rescue team to help attempt to save bodies and survivors. .
Wanted by Folha, Shelley did not speak. The embassy only said the exchange was a normal decision, since its diplomatic mission ended after four years.
For Michel Gherman, academic director of the Brazil-Israel Institute, the change of command at the embassy signals a new format in the relationship between the two countries.
“The future ambassador will probably give a more structured character to the diplomatic relationship, in particular because he is a professional career,” he said.
According to him, the change comes at a time when Netanyahu is repositioning himself on the Israeli political scene. Chameleon politician, who has been in power for 12 years, he stands for a new election on March 23.
After a period of heavy political attrition, including the threat of arrest, Netanyahu has regained his breath following the successful vaccination campaign against Covid-19, which has become a role model for the world.
“If in previous years Netanyahu joined Trump and Bolsonaro, he now wants to go back to his roots as a pragmatic right-wing conservative politician,” Gherman says.
A less direct association with Bolsonaro, while maintaining political ties, would be part of this process, which includes the change of head of the diplomatic mission.
The appointment of a career ambassador like Zonshine shows Netanyahu’s intention for him to remain in office regardless of the outcome of the election. Shelley, on the other hand, would likely be removed from office if the opposition wins the dispute.
Zonshine is considered a skilled diplomat, who acted to turn down the heat in the tense times of Brazil-Israel relations during the PT governments.
In 2010, for example, while serving as director of public affairs at the Israeli foreign ministry, he said in an interview with Folha that then president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had the right to to give favorable opinions on Iran. , a country which has Israel for its enemy.
“He [Lula] you have the right to express its opinion, but I think it is difficult for you to convince the Israeli government of your point of view. It’s us [Israel] that we are in the Middle East and that we are threatened by Iran, ”Zonshine said at the time.
There is no date yet for the swap to take effect, as it depends on Itamaraty’s acceptance of the name of the new diplomat. However, there should be no problem with this.
As for Shelley, her future is yet to be announced. The most likely assumption is that he will return to the private sector and political activities as an ally of Netanyahu.