At Netanyahu's Bureau's Request, Israel Hayom Kills Interview With New Spokesman Who Irked U.S.

Netanyahu has recently unfrozen the appointment of Ran Baratz, who accused Obama of anti-Semitism on Facebook.

Olivier Fitoussi and Lior Mizrahi

A lengthy newspaper interview with the prime minister’s controversial nominee to be the government’s chief spokesman was never published, at the request of Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau.

The interview with Ran Baratz, whom Netanyahu seeks to appoint as head of the National Information Directorate, was conducted about two months ago by the daily Israel Hayom, but never saw print. TheMarker has learned that this is because Netanyahu's bureau asked the paper to kill it, due to concerns about its content.

Netanyahu first announced his intent to appoint Baratz in November 2015. Baratz, a doctor of philosophy and founder of the website Mida, was supposed to replace Liran Dan.

But after the appointment was announced, old Facebook posts began to surface in which Baratz harshly criticized both U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Among his accusations was that Obama is an anti-Semite.

Netanyahu then froze the appointment, saying he had been “unaware of the things Ran Baratz wrote against Rivlin and views them as inappropriate remarks.” But he never appointed anyone else in Baratz’s place, and last week he asked the Civil Service Commission to approve Baratz for the job.

The decision not to publish the interview, for which Israel Hayom never offered any convincing explanation, attests to the close ties between the prime minister and the paper. Israel Hayom’s editorial line openly backs Netanyahu, and the paper is owned by American Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a longtime Netanyahu supporter.

Israel Hayom declined to comment when asked if someone in Netanyahu’s bureau had asked it to censor the interview. Baratz also declined to comment on the issue. No response has yet been received from the Prime Minister’s bureau.