PM says his PR pick apologized for Facebook posts

Netanyahu says his choice for hasbarah czar, Dr. Ran Baratz, posted 'improper' comments about Rivlin, Obama.

Hezki Baruch ,

Netanyahu addresses Masa Israel participants
Netanyahu addresses Masa Israel participants
Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday that the man he tapped for National Director of Hasbarah (information diplomacy), Dr. Ran Baratz, posted "improper" comments on Facebook regarding President Reuven Rivlin and US President Barack Obama.

"I read, for the first time, what Dr. Ran Baratz published on the internet, including things about the president, the US president and public officials in Israel and the US," stated Netanyahu. "They are improper and do not represent my positions or the policy of the government. Dr. Baratz apologized for the statements and asked to discuss them in a meeting with me, and we agreed to meet when I return to Israel."

The President's bureau sent a request Sunday to the Prime Minister's Office demanding an explanation for the questionable comments. 

In a post published on Facebook last week, Baratz mocked Rivlin for flying economy class on his trip home from a state visit to the Czech Republic. 

"I think it's safe even to send him in a paraglider to the Syrian Golan under ISIS," Baratz continued. "The very next day, they will return him and express their desire to start negotiating their immediate return to Iraq: 'Just take him, please.'"

After President Barack Obama reacted to the speech delivered by Netanyahu in Congress in March, Baratz wrote: "This is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in western liberal countries. And of course, it comes with a lot of tolerance and understanding toward Islamic anti-Semitism. So much tolerance and understanding, until they are even willing to give them nukes."

In October of 2014, he wrote about a speech in which Secretary of State John Kerry "made a connection between Israel and ISIS." He wrote commented sarcastically:  "After his term as secretary of state he is certain to have a flourishing career in one of the stand-up comedy clubs in Kansas City, Mosul, or the Holot detention facility." Elsewhere, he reportedly said Kerry had "the mental age of a 12-year-old."

Ministers oppose pick

Minister of Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, has come out against Baratz's appointment.

"The position of National Director of Hasbarah is a very sensitive one," she said. "His pronouncements against the president and elements in the American administration damage our symbols of state and those of our great ally, and may be interpreted as our official position."

She added that she has complete faith in the prime minister's judgment and is confident that he will rethink Baratz's appointment.

Welfare Minister Chaim Katz joined Gamliel's criticism and said he would vote against Baratz's appointment.

"A person who apparently does not think twice before speaking out against symbols of state is not worthy of being its representative," he opined.