Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Octobe 8, 2015.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took issue on Friday with the US State Department’s description of his response to the furor caused by the appointment of Ran Baratz as his new head of public diplomacy and media.
After the appointment was announced on Wednesday, Baratz’s caustic commentary both on his Facebook page and in opinion pieces he had written generated headlines around the world.
Baratz had described US President Barack Obama actions as “modern anti-Semitism,” referred to US Secretary of State John Kerry as someone “whose mental age doesn’t exceed 12” and charged that President Reuven Rivlin is unworthy to hold office.
On Thursday night, in light of his upcoming trip to Washington next week, Netanyahu froze Baratz’s appointment.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington, “The secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, and we understand that the prime minister will be reviewing this appointment when he returns from his visit to the United States.”
On Friday, Netanyahu posted this statement on the Hebrew language Twitter account of the Prime Minister’s Office.
“I did not say that I would reconsider the appointment of Dr. Ran Baratz, but rather I said that I would attend to the matter when I returned to Israel,” Netanyahu tweeted.
In Washington on Monday, Netanyahu is scheduled to hold his first face-to-face meeting with Obama in a year.
The meeting was supposed to mark the end of a period of acrimony between the two leaders over the Iran deal.
But Baratz’s comments have created new friction between Jerusalem and Washington, even though his appointment has yet to be approved by the cabinet.
On Thursday, Kirby told reporters in Washington, “Insults, certainly, aimed at individuals, doesn’t do anything to help advance and deepen the relationship.... We learn in kindergarten about name-calling, and it’s simply not a polite thing to do.”
In Jerusalem on Thursday, Netanyahu agreed that Baratz’s posts were unacceptable.
“I have just read Dr. Ran Baratz’s posts on the Internet, including those relating to the president of the State of Israel, the president of the United States and other public figures in Israel and the United States.
Those posts are totally unacceptable and in no way reflect my positions or the policies of the government of Israel.
“Dr. Baratz has apologized and has asked to meet me to clarify the matter following my return to Israel,” Netanyahu said.