President Barack Obama is an anti-Semite and Secretary of State John Kerry is a stand-up comedian, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's newly-appointed media chief, Ran Baratz. Social media posts made by the chief of Israel's public diplomacy have surfaced, just when the Israeli premier is set to visit Washington on 9 November.
Baratz has made harsh remarks on Facebook on various occasions in the past to describe American leaders and diplomats, which the US said were "troubling and offensive". The media chief has already apologised for his comments and Netanyahu has distanced himself from the controversy. However, it is likely that the damage has already been done, particularly as the two allies cautiously tread a diplomatic tightrope surrounded by domestic scepticism in both the countries.
As soon as news about the new appointee's remarks emerged, Kerry spoke to Netanyahu to seek an explanation. US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said: "We understand the prime minister will be reviewing this appointment when he returns from his visit to the United States. We obviously expect government officials from any country, especially our closest allies, to speak respectfully and truthfully about senior US government officials. It's a rule you learn in kindergarten about name-calling and it's simply not a polite thing to do."
Baratz's appointment is yet to be ratified by the cabinet. He was earlier scheduled to accompany Netanyahu on the upcoming tour to the US, but it is unlikely this will now happen, in light of the controversy. The Israeli premier's close aides and ministers have also advised him to drop Baratz from the US trip.
One of the new media chief's contentious posts read: "Obama's attitude to Netanyahu's speech is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western liberal countries. 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." This was in reference to the negotiations with Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme.
In another post, Baratz derided Kerry as saying that the American diplomat has a mental age of a 12-year-old. The eccentric Baratz, who holds a doctorate in philosophy, has not spared Israeli politicians as well and has made equally scathing comments against them.