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US slams 'offensive' comments by Netanyahu's new spokesman

Netanyahu's newly appointed spokesman Ran Baratz has apologized for private comments about top US officials. Baratz had accused Obama of anti-Semitism and suggested that John Kerry has a mind of a 12-year-old.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed Baratz's past remarks with

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

the State Department said on Thursday.

"His comments about US officials, including the president and Secretary Kerry, we believe, were troubling and offensive," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby added that he believed Netanyahu "will be reviewing" his decision to name Baratz as his communications director, less than a day after Israeli Prime Minister announced the move.

"We obviously expect government officials from any country, especially our closest allies, to speak respectfully and truthfully about senior US government officials," Kirby said.

Baratz' controversial comments resurfaced in Israeli media late Wednesday, just hours after he was named Netanyahu's chief spokesman.

The timing of the appointment also raised eyebrows in Washington, with Netanyahu set to start an official visit to the US on Monday.

State Department to 'wake up'

In a Facebook entry last March, Baratz criticized

Obama's response to Netanyahu's speech

to the US Congress. The US president's reaction "was what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western and liberal countries," Baratz said.

In October last year, Baratz wrote an article on US top diplomat John Kerry, expressing hope that the State Department would "wake up" after Kerry was gone and see the world "through the eyes of a man with a mental age above 12."

He has also taken aim at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, claiming that he is a marginal figure.

"We could send him by paraglider to the Syrian Golan controlled by ISIS" and they would want to send him back, Baratz wrote.

'Hastily' and 'humorously'

Baratz apologized for the "hurtful" remarks in a Facebook post on Thursday.

"I'm sorry that I didn't inform the Prime Minister in advance about them. These postings were written hastily and sometimes humorously, in a manner appropriate for a private person writing on the Internet," Baratz said.

Netanyahu himself also distanced from his new spokesman's comments.

"I have just read the things that Dr. Ran Baratz published on the web, including the comments about the Israeli president, the president of the United States and other public figures here and in the US. They are inappropriate and do not reflect my positions or the policies of the government," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu and Baratz are set to meet after the prime minister returns from the United States.

The Israeli Cabinet still needs to issue the final approval for Baratz's appointment, and some ministers have stated they plan to oppose it.

dj/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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