Dr. Ran Baratz, the newly nominated head of Israel's National Public Diplomacy Directorate, apologized on Thursday for a previous Facebook post in which he called U.S. President Barack Obama anti-Semitic.
"I apologize for the harmful things I published in relation to the [Israeli] president, the U.S. president, and other public officials," Baratz wrote on his Facebook page. "I am sorry that I did not inform the [Israeli] Prime Minister before I wrote them. Things that I published were written in jest, and with a jocular tone, in a language that works for social networks and as a private person. It is clear to me that a governmental officials should behave and express themselves differently. I asked the Prime Minister for chance to clarify things with him in the coming days.
The initial post about Obama came just after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress on March 3. Netanyahu was in Washington to rally congressmen and senators against the nuclear deal the United States and five other world powers had recently signed with Iran.
"Allow me to be harsh, contrary to my moderate habits," Baratz wrote in the post, according to a translation on Haaretz. "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]."
Obama hasn't been Baratz's only target online. Israelis are also upset with Baratz for making jokes about Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's habit of taking economy flights during official trips. According to Baratz, these flights are possible for Rivlin from a security standpoint because he's a "marginal figure" with low risk of being targeted. And last year he referred to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as someone "whose mental age doesn't exceed 12."
The apology from Baratz comes just four days ahead of the first face-to-face meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since the Iran nuclear deal took the relationship between Israel and the U.S. to a recent low.
Early Thursday morning, Netanyahu's office issued a statement saying that it "wasn't aware of the remarks Ran Baratz wrote against Rivlin, and views them as inappropriate."
Netanyahu went further in a statement released to the press. "I have just read Dr. Ran Baratz's posts on the Internet, including those relating to the President of the State of Israel, the President of the United States and other public figures in Israel and the United States," he wrote. "Those posts are totally unacceptable and in no way reflect my positions or the policies of the Government of Israel. Dr. Baratz has apologized and has asked to meet me to clarify the matter following my return to Israel."
The rebuke comes less than twenty-four hours after the announcement that Baratz would be taking up the new position. The Israeli Cabinet still needs to approve his nomination, which is currently "suspended" according to Israeli media.
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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