New has­bara chief prov­ing diplo­matic dis­as­ter for Bibi

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

THE EX­PECTED de­ci­sion by Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu to can­cel the ap­point­ment of a new com­mu­ni­ca­tions chief is likely to post­pone the ar­rival of Is­rael’s new am­bas­sador in Bri­tain.

The an­nounce­ment last week that Ran Baratz would fill the dual role of the prime min­is­ter’s press ad­viser and head of Is­rael’s has­bara (pub­lic diplo­macy) ap­pa­ra­tus caused a furore as it emerged that the right-wing aca­demic had posted a se­ries of con­tro­ver­sial mes­sages on Face­book.

Un­til last week, he was largely un­known out­side right-wing cir­cles, his me­dia ex­pe­ri­ence largely lim­ited to edit­ing a small web­site and writ­ing oc­ca­sional op-eds in like-minded pub­li­ca­tions. How­ever, Mr Baratz has be­come no t o r i o u s . Hi s Face­book oeu­vre in­cludes char­ac­ter­is­ing Pres­i­dent Barack O b a m a ’ s po l i c i e s a s “m o d e r n an­ti­semitism”, de­scrib­ing State Sec­re­tary John Kerry as hav­ing the “mind­set of a 12-year-old” and la­belling Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin a “mar­ginal fig­ure”. Mr Baratz said his com­ments were “satir­i­cal”.

Mr Baratz’s ap­point­ment has been sus­pended and he did not join the prime min­is­ter on his visit to Wash­ing­ton this week. A num­ber of Is­raeli min­is­ters have said they plan to op­pose the ap­point­ment, which was to be ap­proved in cab­i­net.

Mr Ne­tanyahu is now ex­pected to look for a new spokesper­son. “Whether or not Ne­tanyahu’s staff checked Baratz’s Faceb oo k re c o r d be f o r e th e ap­point­ment,” said one for­mer ad­viser to the prime min­is­ter, “it should be pretty clear that he was choos­ing Baratz be­cause they see eye to eye on most is­sues. This is what Bibi thinks but can’t say in pub­lic.”

There is now likely to be a fur­ther de­lay in the se­lec­tion of the prime min­is­ter’s new spokesper­son for for­eign me­dia.

The in­cum­bent, Mark Regev, was ap­pointed three months ago as Is­rael’s next UK en­voy. Mr Regev’s wife and younger son have al­ready moved to Lon­don, but he re­mains in Jerusalem and this week trav­elled to Wash­ing­ton to as­sist the prime min­is­ter. One se­nior of­fi­cial said this week that “no clear can­di­date has yet emerged… Regev could be stuck here for a while yet”.

‘Ne­tanyahu choseBaratz be­causethey seeeyeto­eye’

Ran Baratz

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