Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new top media adviser on Thursday came under fire for controversial past comments, including some accusing US President Barack Obama of anti-Semitism.
The controversy surrounding Ran Baratz erupted as Netanyahu prepares to meet Obama in Washington on Monday as part of efforts to heal rifts over the Iran nuclear deal, among other issues.
Netanyahu’s office announced Baratz’s appointment as the prime minister’s head of public diplomacy and media on Wednesday, and Israeli news sites have since dug up a string of comments he has made.
In March, Baratz wrote about Obama on his Facebook page after Netanyahu addressed the US Congress to express opposition to the Iran deal. The speech drew heavy criticism from Obama.
“Obama’s way of speaking about Netanyahu’s speech — that is the modern face of anti-Semitism in Western and liberal countries,” Baratz wrote. “And that comes, of course, with much tolerance and understanding toward Islamic anti-Semitism.”
Netanyahu on Thursday condemned the remarks, while Baratz apologized.
“They are inappropriate and do not reflect my positions nor government policy,” Netanyahu posted on Twitter.
He said he would meet Baratz after he returns from the US.
Baratz said they “were written without thinking and sometimes as jokes in language which is appropriate for social networks and for a private person.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “readily apparent that that apology was warranted.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry — who was also among Baratz’s targets — spoke with Netanyahu about the matter by telephone on Thursday.
Baratz’s comments “were troubling and offensive,” US Department of State spokesman John Kirby said.
“We obviously expect government officials from any country, especially our closest allies, to speak respectfully and truthfully about senior US government officials,” he added.
Baratz reportedly wrote that Kerry’s “mental age” was no older than 12.
He also spoke of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in withering terms, saying that even the Islamic State group would not want him as a hostage.
Baratz recently wrote on Facebook that Rivlin, whose position is mainly ceremonial, was “such a marginal figure” that he had nothing to fear.
“We could send him by paraglider to the Syrian Golan controlled by ISIS [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria]” and they would want to send him back, Baratz wrote.
Rivlin’s office has reportedly asked Netanyahu’s office for explanations regarding the comments about him.
In addition, the 42-year-old resident of a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank supported calls in 2004 for the construction of a new Jewish temple at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Baratz’s appointment is to be submitted for Cabinet approval, and some ministers have said they will oppose it.
Israeli Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel said the comments “undermine the symbols of our government and those of our greatest ally, and may be misconstrued as an official stance,” according to the Haaretz newspaper.
In other developments, Obama has made a “realistic assessment” that a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians is not possible during his final months in office, US officials said Thursday.
While the nuclear accord that the US and its international partners reached with Iran is expected to be a major focus of Obama’s talks with Netanyahu, they are also scheduled to discuss the fresh wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence that began two months ago.
Officials said Obama and Netanyahu would discuss steps to prevent confrontations between the parties in the absence of a peace agreement.
Additional reporting by AP
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”