The incoming head of Israel's National Public Diplomacy Directorate has previously accused U.S. President Barack Obama of anti-Semitism. Dr. Ran Baratz posted the remarks on Facebook a few hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress on March 3.
Baratz's harsh comments come to light days before Netanyahu is slated to meet with Obama at the White House. The two will convene on Monday for the first time in over a year, in the aftermath of the showdown between the White House and the prime minister's bureau over the nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu seeks to reach an agreement with Obama over a defense aid package worth tens of billions of dollars that the U.S. would transfer to Israel over the course of the next decade.
"Allow me to be harsh, contrary to my moderate habits," Baratz wrote in the March 3 post. "Obama's reference to Netanyahu's speech – this is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western and liberal countries. And it comes, of course, alongside much tolerance and understanding toward Islamic anti-Semitism. So much tolerance and understanding that they are willing to give [Iran] an atom[ic bomb]."
A slew of controversial comments made by Baratz in recent years have emerged over the past 24 hours, some addressing hot button issues vis-à-vis politics and security. In 2004, Baratz published an opinion piece on the NRG news site calling for the construction of the third temple on the Temple Mount, and to allow Muslims to pray there only if they recognize the mount as a Jewish holy site.
Only last week, Netanyahu had to release a series of statements in Hebrew and English, as part of the understandings reached with Jordan and the U.S., with regard to maintaining the status quo on Temple Mount. The prime minister even reprimanded Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely over a far more moderate remark, in which she said seeing the Israel flag on Temple Mount is her dream.
Baratz's appointment as the head of the public diplomacy agency caused tension between the prime minister's bureau and the President's Residence on Wednesday, after it emerged that he said President Reuven Rivlin "such a marginal figure that there is no concern" that he would be the target of an assassination. Baratz made the comment in a Facebook post less than two weeks ago, while in talks over the appointment.
Rivlin’s bureau sent a request to the Netanyahu's bureau asking for explanations regarding remarks. Netanyahu's aides released a statement early on Thursday, saying that the prime minister "wasn't aware of the remarks Ran Baratz wrote against Rivlin, and views them as inappropriate." It further said that Baratz has assured Netanyahu that he understands that his public position requires him to act in an official manner and with restraint, a requirement that didn't apply to him as a private citizen.