Netanyahu media adviser quits amid rumors of bad blood

Netanyahu media adviser quits amid rumors of bad blood

Ran Baratz rejects reports that PM blames him for souring relations with media and wanted him out

Ran Baratz delivers a lecture for The Israeli Freedom Movement, April 13, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)
Ran Baratz delivers a lecture for The Israeli Freedom Movement, April 13, 2016 (screen capture: YouTube)

A senior media adviser to the Prime Minister announced his resignation Monday, three days after Channel 2 News reported that Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to get rid of him.

Writing on Facebook, Ran Baratz — officially in the job for only six months — said he asked Netanyahu to release him six weeks ago, but that his boss asked him to stay on to finish uncompleted tasks.

He was leaving, he said, because he felt he could better fulfill his potential elsewhere.

Rumors of bad blood between him and Netanyahu were untrue, he maintained.

Channel 2 news reported Friday that the prime minister was unhappy with Baratz’s performance, blaming him for recent tensions with the Israeli press. Senior officials told Channel 2 that Baratz was responsible for rising hostilities in relations with the media and had been responsible for several personal attacks on journalists by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Baratz, senior officials told Channel 2, is “a goner” with Netanyahu, who is now seeking a replacement. However, several media specialists the PMO has contacted have so far turned down the offer.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 28, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 28, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Netanyahu nominated Baratz to become the head of the National Information Directorate on November 4, 2015. But soon after the appointment was announced, it emerged that Baratz had previously published punlished a series of controversial Facebook posts attacking senior figures in Israel, including President Reuven Rivlin and then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, as well as US president Barack Obama.

Most notably, he had called Obama “anti-Semitic,” and compared secretary of state John Kerry’s mental age to that of a 12-year-old. Netanyahu, who had also been at one time a target of Baratz’s caustic wit, decided to freeze his nomination at the time.

Baratz quickly apologized for his “hurtful remarks,” arguing they were “written hastily and sometimes humorously” and vowing to express himself differently once he became a government official.

He then joined the PMO last July in a lower-level advisory capacity.

Baratz’s resignation comes as Netanyahu has pounded the press, accusing journalists of actively trying to push him out of power.

On Monday, he accused the media of peddling in “fake news,” after a tweet in which he seemingly praised US President Donald Trump’s idea for a border wall raised hackles in Mexico.

“It doesn’t surprise me. The media is left-wing, mobilized on a Bolshevik hunt [against me], [dedicated to] brainwashing, and character assassination against me and my family,” said Netanyahu.

He further charged that Israel’s press was pressuring the attorney general and law enforcement agencies “to indict me at any price,” referring to various police investigations against him on suspicions of graft.

“There has been nothing like it in the history of the state. It’s doubtful there was anything similar in the history of other democratic countries,” said Netanyahu.

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