netanyahu knesset
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a special Knesset address, October 13, 2015. (photo credit:KOBI GIDON / GPO)


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday night froze Ran Baratz’s appointment as his new media Czar after past Facebook posts he had written insulting US President Barack Obama and John Kerry became headline fodder around the world.

Baratz had described Obama’s words 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 was unworthy to hold office.

The posts threatened to cast a pall on Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week, where he is scheduled to hold his first face-to-face meeting with Obama since last year at this time.

The two leaders were expected to attempt to heal some of the wounds from their acrimonious battle over the Iran deal, which both men now want to put behind them.

Netanyahu said he had not known about the Baratz comments prior to announcing his appointment Wednesday night as the new head Public Diplomacy and Media adviser for his office.

“Those posts are totally unacceptable and in no way reflect my positions or the policies of the Government of Israel,” the prime minister said.

He agreed to meet with Baratz after his return from Washington and said that no more decisions would be made until then. The cabinet needs to approve any prime ministerial appointee for that position.

Baratz posted a note of apology on his Facebook page on Thursday night.

“The things that I published were written thoughtlessly, and sometimes in jest, in the kind of language a private citizens uses when posting on social media,” Baratz wrote in a Facebook post.

“Clearly those in governmental positions speak and behave differently,” he said.

“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,” he said.

Baratz also apologized for failing to inform Netanyahu about the posts and said he hoped to clarify the issue with the prime minister.

Earlier in the day he had written a post about his appointment and explained that clearly he would no longer be free to write the same critical posts he was famous for in the past.

The White House responded to the​ controversy on Thursday by noting the Israeli premier’s decision to appoint him to a senior government post.

Such appointments, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, are “decisions that [Netanyahu] will rightfully make on his own.”

The administration welcomed Baratz’ apology, Earnest added: “It is readily apparently that that apology was warranted.”

The US State Deptartment called Baratz’ comments about Kerry and Obama “troubling and offensive.”

A spokesman for the State Department noted a “kindergarten” rule regarding the comments: Name-calling is “simply not a polite thing to do,” he said.

Baratz, a 42-year old resident of the Kfar Adumim settlement in the West Bank has a doctorate in philosophy from the Hebrew University, served in IAF intelligence and has a background in high-tech.

But he is 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 the following 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 re-election 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.”

In June Baratz wrote that The Jerusalem Post Conference’s audience in New York was right to jeer Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew during his speech to them.

“It certainly was not polite [of the audience to jeer],” Baratz wrote sarcastically.  “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 is 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 continued, “Obama certainly threw us under the wheels of the bus, even if he did it with a winning smile, as he gave us abundant gypsum plasters and sung the hallelujah of the Jewish Left Wing chorus in Israel and the United States.”
He added, “So, yes, boos.”

In a column for MIDA last year, 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.”

He also had plenty to say about Israeli politicians. After President Reuven Rivlin flew economy class for an official state visit, Baratz wrote, “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. They’ll return him the next day with a request for negotiating their return to Iraq, if only we take him back.”

In another post over the summer, Baratz charged that Rivlin was motivated by self interest and that his behavior was not that of a public servant or a president.

Upon hearing of the appointment, Rivlin’s office sought clarification from Netanyahu.

“The comments are even more serious in view of the fact that [Baratz] would be a senior civil servant in a representative capacity and would reflect the positions of the state of Israel at home and abroad,” a spokesman for Rivlin said.

He surmised that in the future anyone who wanted to be employed in a government office would have to be very careful about what they posted on social media, because after this episode, potential employees are likely to be scrutinized much more carefully.

Opposition leader Issac Herzog (Zionist Union) said, “A person who slings mud at President Obama, defames US Secretary of State Kerry, and, most serious of all, humiliated the beloved president of our country, our most important symbol, has to be sent home immediately, even before he arrives.”

“It’s an act of flawed judgement to think that a man like this can hold governmental office,” Herzog said.

“I insist that Netanyahu stop this man’s appointment immediately,” Herzog said.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post