New hasbara chief proving diplomatic disaster for Bibi
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’