Some Israeli diplomats reportedly lament FM’s ‘weird’ social media trolling

Unnamed ministry officials question Israel Katz’s approach, which has included photoshopped images of Erdogan and flamenco video mockery aimed at Spain

Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

A number of Israeli diplomats have spoken out anonymously against their boss, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, over what they call his undiplomatic habit of trolling countries on social media over decisions he disagrees with.

A report in The Financial Times cited two diplomats lamenting the approach as embarrassing and ineffective.

“It’s just weird… I think he thinks it works,” one was quoted as telling the British newspaper. “But it’s not effective. People see it as aggressive and offensive, not as an effective means of communication.”

Another told the outlet that “I don’t think any other foreign minister is doing what he’s doing,” as the report added that Katz’s posts “have been met with a mixture of bafflement and eye-rolling.”

Katz, who took the helm of the Foreign Ministry from predecessor Eli Cohen in January as part of a coalition power-sharing deal, has spent the past few months posting sometimes eyebrow-raising messages online, at times accompanied by strangely photoshopped images.

This week, in response to the recognition of the state of Palestine by Spain, Norway and Ireland, Katz posted a series of mocking videos, including one interspersing a couple flamenco dancing with footage of Hamas’s October 7 massacre and the tagline: “Hamas thanks you for your service.”

Another post boldly declared “The days of the Inquisition are over,” referring to the 15th Century Spanish persecution of Jews.

The videos may have well garnered the response Katz was looking for, as Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares reacted furiously at a press conference in Brussels on Sunday.

“We are not going to fall into provocations. The video is scandalous and execrable,” Albares said. “Its scandalous because all the world knows, including my colleague in Israel, that Spain condemned the actions of Hamas from the first moment. And execrable for the use of one of those symbols of Spanish culture.”

Katz posted similar spliced dance clips targeting both Ireland Norway.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

Katz also regularly trolls Turkey and its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Hitler. Katz accuses Ankara of perpetrating a genocide against the Armenian minority — a genocide Israel has long refused to formally recognize.

Last month, he posted a doctored image on X of Erdogan asleep on a bed, with a caption suggesting he was “dreaming of reestablishing the Ottoman Empire” and leading the Muslim world, comparing his so-called fantasies to popular Turkish television shows.

One diplomat quoted in the Financial Times suggested that Katz’s approach is a result of his limited role in decision-making, given that Netanyahu leads most of Israel’s contacts with countries abroad and that Katz is not part of the powerful war cabinet.

“It’s a means for him to make noise and be seen,” the diplomat said.

While it is unlikely anyone within the Foreign Ministry would publicly criticize Katz, his other social media post earlier this month did spawn public backlash.

Katz posted a caricature of Jibril Rajoub, the Palestinian politician who serves as the secretary-general of the Fatah party as well as head of the Palestinian Football Association, depicting Rajoub playing soccer in what seemed to be a prison.

“Jibril Rajoub, a terrorist in a suit who publicly supports Hamas crimes, is working around the world to kick Israel out of FIFA,” Katz wrote. “We will work to thwart his plans, and if he doesn’t stop we’ll imprison him in the Muqata [the Palestinian Authority compound in Ramallah] and we’ll leave him there to play between its walls.”

The post infuriated the Israel Football Association, whose officials said in media interviews that Katz had “damaged” their cause and “handed a gift” to the PFA and their campaign.

Katz’s post also irked Likud Culture and Sport Minister Miki Zohar, who said in an interview that “political statements are unnecessary” amid the Israeli attempt to counter Rajoub’s efforts to bar Israel from FIFA, and that “the work needs to be done behind the scenes.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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