Another Minister Comes Out Against PM's Appointment of Controversial Spokesman

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talking in Knesset with former Economy Minister Arye Dery, who stepped down to enable the PM to pass his 'gas plan'.Credit: Reuters

Shas party chairman and cabinet minister Arye Dery indicated over the weekend that he opposed the controversial choice of Ran Baratz as head of the government’s National Information Directorate.

“Dery hopes and believes that the prime minister will reconsider the appointment, as he has already said he would,” a close associate of the Negev and Galilee development minister said.

The head of the National Information Directorate, who also serves as the prime minister’s spokesman, is nominated by the prime minister but must be confirmed by the cabinet. Dery, whose opposition was first reported by Channel 2 television, is the third minister to have come out against Baratz’s appointment. The other two are Haim Katz and Gila Gamliel, both of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Other ministers have said off the record that they oppose the appointment as well, but it’s not clear if they will go public with their opposition in the coming days.

The opposition to Baratz stems from derogatory statements he made in Facebook posts prior to his appointment about President Reuven Rivlin, U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Inter alia, he accused Obama of anti-Semitism, dismissed Rivlin as too insignificant to worry about being assassinated and said Kerry has the mental age of a 12-year-old.

Ran Baratz, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi and Lior Mizrahi

After these posts came to light, Netanyahu decided not to take Baratz with him on his current trip to Washington and to put the appointment on hold until he returns to Israel and meets with Baratz. Last Thursday, a State Department spokesman even said Netanyahu had promised Kerry to “review” the appointment.

On Friday, however, Netanyahu denied this via his Twitter account. “I didn’t say I would review Dr. Ran Baratz’s appointment, but that I would deal with the matter when I returned to Israel,” he tweeted.