Netanyahu Suspends Appointment of New Spokesman Over Obama Comments

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the appointment of his chief spokesperson just a day after it was announced after previous social media posts accusing President Obama of antisemitism had emerged.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu announced the appointment of Ran Baratz, founder of a right-wing news site, as head of the National Public Diplomacy Directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office.

His controversial Facebook post were immediately reported by Israeli media, causing an uproar. In March, Baratz wrote that Obama’s public opposition to Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western liberal countries. And it comes, of course, alongside much tolerance and understanding toward Islamic anti-Semitism. So much tolerance and understanding that they are willing to give [Iran] an atomic bomb.” He also suggested that Secretary of State John Kerry’s “mental age doesn’t exceed 12.”

After the controversial posts had been reported by international media, Netanyahu issued another statement, saying, “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.”

The announcement of the controversial appointment came at a crucial time for the U.S-Israle relationship. The two leaders are expected to meet at the White House next Monday for what is described as a reset in the relationship and an opportunity to move beyond the debate over the Iran deal.

Baratz apologized in a statement he posted on Facebook and shared by the Prime Minister’s office. “I apologize for the hurtful things I posted,” he wrote. “I am sorry I did not update the prime minister for these things in advance. The things I posted were written recklessly, and sometimes in jest, in a language that befits the social networks and a private individual. It is very clear to me that in my official role I have to behave and express myself differently. I asked the prime minister for an opportunity to clarify things in the coming days.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest welcomed the apology during a daily briefing. “It is readily apparently that that apology was warranted,” Earnest said.

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