Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to move forward with the appointment of a new head of the government's public relations department was described as an act of "diplomatic terrorism" against the United States, Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said on Friday.
The former foreign minister attacked Netanyahu's decision to name Ran Baratz as his next chief media adviser despite highly critical online posts that he wrote about US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Government officials confirmed a Channel 2 report about Netanyahu's decision to move forward with the move, and said that earlier this week Netanyahu sent the nomination to the Civil Services Commission for approval.
Baratz's appointment has been held up since November, after it became known that he referred to Obama’s angry response to Netanyahu's speech to Congress as “modern anti-Semitism,” and wrote that Kerry's mental age does not exceed that of a 12-year-old child. He also has written denigrating Facebook posts about President Reuven Rivlin.
"[The appointment] might be good for Netanyahu, but it's bad for Israel," Livni said. "This is yet another diplomatic terrorist attack against a strategic ally. The problem isn't with the spokesperson, but with government policy and the lack of forethought as it pertains to this appointment."
Earlier on Friday, an Obama administration official told Army Radio that "Baratz's comments about Obama and Kerry are harmful, and we expect those in foreign governments to treat American administration officials with respect."
Baratz had described Obama actions as “modern anti-Semitism,” referred to Kerry as someone “whose mental age doesn’t exceed 12” and charged that President Reuven Rivlin is unworthy to hold office.
Netanyahu said he had not known about Baratz’s comments prior to announcing his appointment as his new head of public diplomacy and media.
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“Those posts are totally unacceptable and in no way reflect my positions or the policies of the government of Israel,” the prime minister said.
Baratz posted an apology on his Facebook page, which was welcomed by White House press secretary John Earnest. Such appointments are “decisions that [Netanyahu] will rightfully make on his own. It is readily apparent that that apology was warranted,” Earnest told reporters.
On his Facebook page Baratz explained: “The things that I published were written thoughtlessly, and sometimes in jest, in the kind of language a private citizen uses when posting on social media. Clearly those in governmental positions speak and behave differently. I apologize for the harmful things I published with regard to the president [of Israel], the president of the United States and other public figures.”
The 42-year old resident of the Kfar Adumim settlement in the West Bank has a doctorate in philosophy from the Hebrew University, served in Israel Air Force intelligence and has a background in hi-tech.
But he was previously best known for his pointed commentary on Israeli politicians, diplomats, and current events both, on his Facebook page and in the column he writes for the online Hebrew-language journal MIDA, which he founded.
In March of last year, after listening to Obama’s negative reaction to Netanyahu’s speech against the Iran deal before a joint session of Congress, Baratz wrote on his Facebook page: “This is what modern anti-Semitism in a liberal Western country looks like. And, of course, it comes with a great deal of tolerance and understanding for Islamic anti-Semitism."
"The tolerance and understanding is so great that [Obama] is willing to give it a nuclear bomb.”
After Obama’s reelection in 2012, he wrote in a column for MIDA: “For the next four years, a pro-Arab, anti-Israel president will continue to rule. His upcoming term will be even more extreme, and he has nothing more to lose or to hide. The Jews have once again voted for Obama by a wide majority, and this just shows how wide the gap has become between the Jews of Israel and the Jews of the US."
“The Jews in America who see Obama as pro-Israeli are the most extreme in their criticism of Israel,” he wrote. “The irresponsible Israeli policy which they seek raises the question of how exactly they can define themselves as pro-Israel.”