The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday was set to fire Israel’s Ambassador to Switzerland Yigal Caspi and two other members of the diplomatic corps who retweeted messages critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ministers in his cabinet, the Hebrew news site NRG reported.
Assaf Moran, who works as a political officer at the New Dehli embassy, and Yaron Gamburg, a political researcher from the embassy in Paris, were to immediately return to Israel to face a hearing before their dismissal. Caspi was returned from his post to suffer a similar punishment.
The prompt and severe developments came shortly after NRG reported on some of the messages that were shared via the diplomats’ personal accounts on Twitter.
“These three workers have been removed from their posts immediately,” a Foreign Ministry source was quoted as saying. “The three of them will have a hearing before being fired, as the minister instructed. It is unacceptable for employees who are supposed to represent the country to write these kinds of things about the prime minister, about ministers, and about the country. They can do so as private individuals, but not when they are civil servants who are suppose to represent us around the world.”
Civil service regulations forbid public servants from taking a political stance, in particular those working for the Foreign Ministry. Although the Twitter accounts involved were the diplomats’ personal accounts, they were also used for publishing official Foreign Ministry information, the report said.
Every time one thinks Netanyahu has taken the relationship with the White House to the lowest point ever, he manages to take it even lower
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) January 21, 2015
Caspi had retweeted messages from several Israeli journalists, some of which were highly critical of the government as well as of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Washington, accepting an invitation by Republican lawmakers to speak before Congress.
One of the tweets retweeted on Caspi’s account was originally posted by the Haaretz daily’s diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, who had complained that “Every time one thinks Netanyahu has taken the relationship with the White House to the lowest point ever, he manages to take it even lower.”
Netanyahu’s planned speech, scheduled for March 3, has drawn fierce criticism from the Obama administration, which was not informed of the the prime minister’s scheduled appearance. During his address, Netanyahu he is expected to espouse a stance on the talks with Iran that is sharply at odds with the White House’s.
Caspi also retweeted a tweet from Israel Radio journalist Esty Perez, in which she preempted Netanyahu’s expected comments to US lawmakers: “It is it not enough to scare us here in Hebrew? He has to fly to the US Congress, and tell them in English how dangerous a nuclear Iran is?”
Another tweet attacked Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who as Israel’s chief diplomat is Caspi’s direct superior. The message, retweeted from the account of The Marker business daily reporter Rotem Shtarkman, panned Liberman for summarily expunging senior members of his Yisrael Beytenu party from the party’s Knesset slate ahead of the elections.
“It is shocking how Liberman dismissed his ministers. Not that they were particularly good, but the way he uses people, bringing them in and then removing then when he gets fed up, is horrible,” Shtarkman wrote in the tweet shared by Caspi.
Both Gamburg and Moran had retweeted comments from other users criticizing Netanyahu and other members of his cabinet.
Gamburg had also composed his own tweet, in which he attacked Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, accusing him of right-wing homophobia.
“I heard that Bennett complained that the media was having a go at him,” he wrote. “What a sad case… He is fringe right, messianic, violent, homophobic and anti-social. So what does he want?”
By Wednesday evening both Gamburg’s and Moran’s Twitter accounts appeared to have been deactivated, although Caspi’s was still operating.