Sunday, November 29, 2015

Public diplomacy director controversy drags on

Itamar Eichner,

image from article

Nearly a month has gone by since Dr. Ran Baratz was announced as the controversial choice to head Israel's Public Diplomacy Department, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has still not submitted Baratz's name for confirmation by the Civil Service Commission. Baratz's appointment was not discussed at Sunday's weekly government meeting – for the fourth time since the appointment was announced.

The position is equivalent to a role of director general in a government ministry. According to protocol, the appointment must go through a committee headed by the civil service commissioner.

Sources believe Netanyahu has chosen not to press forward with the confirmation so as not to anger the United States ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry's recent visit. But Kerry left Israel on Tuesday and Netanyahu has still not prioritized the appointment.

The announcement that Baratz had been selected for the role immediately drew fire because of his past statements slamming a long list of leaders and politicians both in Israel and abroad, including President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and US President Barack Obama.

The appointment received criticism from the White House as well as in Israel.

That's not the only problem Baratz faces: one issue the appointments committee will likely examine is the question of political affiliation between the minister who makes the appointment – the prime minister in this case – and the appointee.

In the case of Baratz, there is a political link between the two. Baratz praised Netanyahu in articles and posts, and urged people to vote for him while attacking his opponent, including Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked, Avigdor Lieberman, Yair Lapid, Aryeh Deri, Gilad Erdan, Gideon Sa'ar, Silvan Shalom and others.

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