Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's choice to serve as the next chief media adviser in the Prime Minister's Office posted controversial statuses on his Facebook page, including one in which he refers to US President Barack Obama's response to the premier's Iran speech in Congress as "modern anti-Semitism."
Ran Baratz, who was tapped by Netanyahu as Israel's next "media czar," once criticized Obama for the president's response to the prime minister's planned speech before Congress against the Iran nuclear deal.
"Allow me to be a bit blunt, which is a break from my usual moderation," Baratz wrote. "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."
The Obama administration was unhappy over Netanyahu's appearance before a joint session of Congress, which was arranged with the Republican leadership and without the knowledge of the White House or the State Department.
The premier used the speech to lobby American lawmakers and warn of the dangers of striking an agreement with Iran.
Baratz, a former university professor with right-wing views, founded the online Hebrew-language journal MIDA. After Obama's re-election in 2012, he wrote: "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."
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This past June, when Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was jeered by a crowd of right-wing Jews at a conference hosted by The Jerusalem Post
in New York, Baratz wrote: "It certainly was not polite [of the audience to jeer]. Lew was talking about all of the ways in which Obama is helping Israel. And Obama, a brilliant public relations person, has given quite a bit. So what's all the fuss about?"
"It quite simple," he wrote. "While Obama is helping us on tactical issues like threats from Hamas and Hezbollah, he is instituting a global strategy of compromise with Iran, all the while creating for us (and other countries in the region) a huge, strategic, nuclear problem."
Baratz also referred to US Secretary of State John Kerry as someone "whose mental age doesn't exceed 12."
In a column that he wrote for an online media magazine last year, Baratz offered a scathing critique of Kerry's suggestion that the
emergence of Islamic radicalism in the Middle East could be traced to the lingering Israel-Palestine conflict.
During remarks at a White House ceremony for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha last year, Kerry implied that the strife resulting from the decades-long dispute between Israel and the Palestinians has harbored an environment prone to fostering extremism.
"I think that it is more critical than ever that we be fighting for peace, and I think it is more necessary than ever... As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the ISIL (Islamic State) coalition, the truth is we – there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation that they felt," Kerry said.
The remarks elicited condemnations from Israeli officials, including then-economy minister Naftali Bennett.
"Asserting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reinforces ISIS, gives a boost to global terrorism," Bennett said.
In his column for the Hebrew online outlet MIDA, Baratz wrote: "To Kerry's credit, it should be noted that there is no Miss America around who could say what he said any better. This is the time to wish the secretary of state good luck, and to count down the days with the hope that someone over there at the State Department will wake up and begin to see the world through the eyes of a person whose mental age exceeds 12."
Netanyahu's latest appointment has been criticized by the Israeli press over the last two days due to controversial tongue-in-cheek Facebook posts made by Baratz denigrating President Reuven Rivlin.
When it was learned that Rivlin had recently made an official state visit abroad by flying coach, Baratz wrote: "I think it says a lot that the president flies economy class, turned around and shook everyone's hand on board. It mainly says that he is such a marginal figure that there's no need to fear for his life. It seems that we could even send him paragliding over the Golan Heights and into ISIS-controlled territory (a reference to the Israeli-Arab who was said to have done that last week)."
These posts prompted Rivlin's aides to seek clarifications from the Prime Minister's Office.
When asked for comment by The Jerusalem Post
's Hebrew-language sister publication Ma'ariv
about the Facebook posts, Baratz said: "I wrote those posts as a private citizen, and now I'm obligated to be diplomatic and statesmanlike. It was just Facebook humor."
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