NEW DELHI: In a major development, the Palestinian Authority inaugurated its first embassy in the Western Hemisphere in Brasilia amid a diplomatic row between Brazil and Israel.

While the government of Brazil continues to refuse the appointment of Israeli-nominated ambassador Dani Dayan over his former leadership of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Feb. 3 inaugurated an embassy and diplomatic mission in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, despite the fact that the PA is not an officially recognized country.

Ties between Brazil and Israel soured after Brasilia recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv in July 2014 to express its outrage at the 50-day Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem knew that Dayan’s appointment was a challenge. The policy of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her government has been supportive of the Palestinians and sharply critical of the settlement enterprise. Despite the objective difficulties, getting the appointment accepted was not an impossible mission. Israeli government conduct, however, was too hesitant and sometimes too naïve, given that there was an aggressive campaign in Brazil against the appointment.

Meanwhile Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim Alzeben said, “This is the conclusion of a dream of mine that was also a dream of colleagues that came before me in this mission in the last four decades.I hope that this is the beginning of a new phase in relations between Brazil and Palestine, that they can be closer and more diversified.”

The Palestinian diplomat hoped a Brazilian embassy will be opened in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and Palestine will secure a free-trade agreement with countries of Mercosur, the South American trade bloc.

The Brazilian government — long openly supportive of Palestine — last month rejected Israel’s appointment for envoy, a former leader of West Bank settlers who are illegally occupying Palestinian land. The announcement came a year after the previous envoy was sent and without prior communication with the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. Palestinian diplomats lobbied against Israel’s pick and Israel has refused to select another, chilling relations with Brazil.

An anonymous military source told Brazil’s Veja magazine last year—before the official inauguration of the Palestinian embassy—that the embassy building’s location is too close to major Brazilian government buildings, such as the Congress and Supreme Court, and that the Palestinian diplomats and their vehicles “cannot be checked.”

The Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds and the Gaza Strip, with East al-Quds as the capital. They are also demanding that Israel withdraw from the Palestinian lands occupied in a 1967 war.

In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state” despite strong opposition from the Israeli regime and the US. Palestine’s flag was hoisted for the first time at the United Nations headquarters in New York last September.

Meanwhile, Palestinian activists, invited to the Thematic World Social Forum, which was held from 19-23 of January in Porto Alegre, Brazil, were prevented from traveling to that country due to the intensification of the Israeli blockade in Hebron.