Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his spokesman – officially appointed by himself – does not speak for him, in a scandal in which the junior Israeli official was found to have scorned senior US officials.
Ran Baratz, whom Netanyahu recently appointed as his new chief of “public diplomacy,” has had a history of insulting American officials. His background of insults came to light after his nomination.
Last year, Baratz said US Secretary of State John Kerry’s “mental age” was no more than that of a 12-year-old.
“This is the time to wish the secretary of state good luck, and to count down the days with the hope that someone over there at the State Department will wake up and begin to see the world through the eyes of a person whose mental age exceeds 12,” he wrote in an online magazine, reacting to comments by Kerry in favor of a deal between Palestinians and Israelis.
In March this year, Baratz wrote on his Facebook page that US President Barack Obama is “anti-Semitic.” Back then, Obama had criticized a speech by Netanyahu in the US Congress. The Israeli prime minister had given a speech in the US legislature against the then freshly-finalized deal between Iran and the P5+1.
On Thursday, Netanyahu attempted to clear the mess up.
“Those posts are totally unacceptable and in no way reflect my positions or the policies” of Israel, Netanyahu said.
He wasn’t quite successful.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said “it’s readily apparent that that apology was warranted,” but suggested that Netanyahu should withdraw his nomination of Baratz for the job.
The Israeli regime has had a seemingly bumpy relationship with the Obama administration in the recent past. During the course of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, which culminated in the agreement in July, Israel went to great lengths to torpedo the talks. Most of such acts of sabotage were directed at the US, a member of the P5+1 group of countries.
Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress, for one thing, was meant to dissuade US Congress members from coming out in support of the deal. The Obama administration was quietly irked.
Furthermore, an Israeli lobby group known as AIPAC spent millions of dollars on TV advertisements in the home states of those US Congressmen who were undecided about how to act in a vote of disapproval in the US Congress over the JCPOA almost two months ago.
AIPAC also formed a tax-exempt entity within the US to oppose the JCPOA after it was reached.
The latest controversy involving Baratz now comes ahead of a planned meeting between Netanyahu and Obama at the White House on November 9, a first such meeting since the Israeli attempts to hinder the Iran talks.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" (http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2017/03/notes-and-references-for-discussion-e.html). Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."