Jodi Rudoren, nytimes.com; see also: Richard Silverstein "Rightist Philosophy Lecturer Dismissed by Hebrew University," richardsilverstein.com
Image from, with caption: Ran Baratz delivers a lecture at The Jewish Statesmanship Center.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has picked as his new chief of public diplomacy a conservative academic who suggested President Obama was anti-Semitic and compared Secretary of State John Kerry’s “mental age” to that of a preteen.
The choice for the role of diplomacy chief, Ran Baratz, lives in a settlement in the occupied West Bank and a decade ago expressed his wish to see the building of a third Jewish temple on a contested Old City compound. Palestinians say such provocative ideas have helped fuel the recent outbreak of attacks against Israeli Jews, though Mr. Netanyahu insists he has no plans to change the current arrangement at the site.
Just last week, he insulted Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, in a Facebook post.
Israeli politicians called for the nomination to be rescinded, while commentators said the decision was sloppy work on the part of his staff — Mr. Netanyahu’s office said he was unaware of even Mr. Baratz’s most recent Facebook comments — and reflected the prime minister’s blindness to Israel’s increasing isolation.
“He’s giving a very strong negative message to the world, which is, ‘I don’t care about public diplomacy, I have a rightwing government, I have a rightwing policy, and I’m going to send people who are offensive,’ ” said Mitchell Barak, a political consultant in Jerusalem. “Every time, people say, ‘Oh, he must have made a mistake, we can’t take it seriously,’ but frankly, he seems to be sending a very clear message, which is, ‘I’m going to appoint the hardcore ideologues, I’m not going to even pay lip service to any diplomatic solution, I’m going to entrench myself more.’ ”
The selection of Mr. Baratz, which is subject to cabinet approval, comes at an inauspicious moment: The prime minister and Mr. Obama are scheduled to sit down together on Monday for the first time in more than a year, a summit meeting seen as an opportunity to repair their rocky relationship after it plunged to new depths.
The official announcement said Mr. Baratz would serve as Mr. Netanyahu’s media adviser and head of public diplomacy and media for the prime minister’s office, a job that was not clearly defined; he would replace Liran Dan, who left in August as head of the national information directorate, akin to a communications director who guided message strategy. Mr. Baratz’s nomination joins a pile of rightwing appointments that have raised eyebrows in Washington and other Western capitals, and a string of recent problems with message discipline. ...