JERUSALEM (JTA) — The man tapped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as his head of public diplomacy has apologized for Facebook posts criticizing public figures, including President Barack Obama.
Ron Baratz said in a Facebook post after Netanyahu’s controversial speech before the U.S. Congress in March: “Obama’s attitude to Netanyahu’s speech is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western liberal countries.”
The post continued: “And it of course comes with a lot of tolerance and understanding of Islamic anti-Semitism. So much tolerance and understanding, to the point of being willing to give them the atomic bomb.”
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Obama at the White House next week.
On Thursday evening, Baratz apologized in a Facebook post for his comments about Obama and other leaders, as well as for not alerting Netanyahu to the comments before his appointment was announced. Baratz said he asked the prime minister for an opportunity to clear things up in the coming days.
“The words that I published were written frivolity and sometimes jokingly, in a manner fit for social networks and a private person,” he wrote.
Netanyahu said Thursday evening of the posts: “They are totally unacceptable and in no way reflect my positions or the policies of the Government of Israel.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a media briefing Thursday that it was “readily apparent that that apology was warranted.”
In a column for the Hebrew-language website MIDA, which he founded, Baratz said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s “mental age” does not “exceed 12.” And after a speech Kerry delivered last month on the Islamic State and Israel, Baratz posted, “After his tenure as secretary of state he is assured a prosperous career as a stand-up comic,” Ynet reported.
Of popular Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, following reports that he flew economy class and shook hands with all the passengers there, Baratz said in an Oct. 25 post: “It means that he is such a minor personality that there’s no danger to his life. I suppose we could even send him by paraglider to ISIS-controlled Golan. The next day they will return him … and say: just take him.”
In a message posted Wednesday, Baratz announced his appointment and said that he would have to curtail his natural inclination to write about politics, criticism and satire on the page, which he called a “big change” but a “small price.”
Asked about the posts, Baratz told the Hebrew daily Maariv, as reported by its sister publication The Jerusalem Post, “I wrote those posts as a private citizen, and now I’m obligated to be diplomatic and statesmanlike. It was just Facebook humor.”
Baratz was previously a lecturer at Hebrew University. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the university.
His appointment, announced Wednesday, must be approved by the Cabinet.