NETANYAHU
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Highlights

  • Their Twitter remarks are considered critical of Prime Minister Netanyahu
  • The Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland , Yigal Caspi, has been recalled and his Twitter account frozen
  • Caspi had posted remarks by journalists accusing Netanyahu of endangering already shaky relations with the Obama administration
  • Netanyahu is seeking re-election and is billed to visit the US
  • The diplomats’ suspensions come in the lead-up to Israel’s national election in March

Details

Israel has suspended and recalled three diplomats who posted on the micro-blogging platform Twitter, remarks critical of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister in advance of an inquiry that could result in their dismissal.

Avigdor Lieberman, the Foreign Minister, said on Thursday that the behaviour of the diplomats, including Israel’s ambassador to Switzerland, was “unacceptable”.

Reported posts included observations by Israeli journalists criticising Netanyahu’s forthcoming visit to Washington DC and speech before the US Congress over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Netanyahu’s trip is said to have angered US President Barack Obama, and the White House says Netanyahu’s speech before the US Congress was a breach in diplomatic protocol.

The invitation for Netanyahu, who is running for re-election, was made by John Boehner, the US House speaker from the opposition Republican Party, without coordinating with the Obama administration.

Yigal Caspi, the Israeli diplomat in Switzerland, had posted remarks by journalists accusing Netanyahu of endangering already shaky relations with the Obama administration.

Caspi, who has been suspended and recalled to Israel, froze his Twitter account on Thursday.

So did two other diplomats: Assaf Moran, a political officer at Israel’s embassy in India, and Yaron Gamburg, a staffer at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

According to Twitter statements republished by Israeli news site NRG, Moran had accused Netanyahu of ducking any discussion of social issues, while Gamburg said on Twitter: “What is happening to our relations with the United States is madness.”

Caspi had also retweeted remarks by a journalist describing Lieberman as high-handed.

Authenticity

A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the Twitter posts as genuine and said the diplomats had been summoned for disciplinary hearings and could be dismissed.

None of the three could immediately be reached for comment.

Another Israeli official said he knew of no involvement by Netanyahu in the matter.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, described the Twitter posts as “outrageous” and compared the diplomats to renegade soldiers.

“These people must identify with all of the state’s positions, regardless of politics. If they cannot, they should resign,” Hanegbi told Israel radio.

The Israeli government is active on Twitter. In a 2012 article, the Canadian International Council praised Israeli engagement with Twitter as “probably the best example of how to use Twitter to shape foreign policy”.

The diplomats’ suspensions came in the lead-up to Israel’s national election in March.

NP/Aljazeera

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