Israeli artist attacks Netanyahu with crude, life-size statue

The installation depicting Netanyahu as a hedonist out of touch with common people will likely resonate with a growing circle of disaffected Israelis.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

Residents of the city of Tel Aviv woke up Wednesday to a jarring site: a pop-up exhibit depicting a life-size statue of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoying a lavish meal by himself at a sprawling table in a mock re-enactment of the Last Supper.

The 10-meter (11-yard) long table is filled with platters of juicy fruit, wads of cash, empty bottles of liquor and a cigar — a jab at the expensive gifts Netanyahu is accused of improperly accepting from wealthy associates. Netanyahu, appearing pudgy and disheveled in a dark suit and red tie, is seen digging into a large cake — alone amid 12 empty chairs.

The crude, engorged depiction of Netanyahu makes him appear fatter than he is. Indeed, he more resembles former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who struggled with weight and spent eight years on a ventilator after suffering a stroke.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the depiction went too far, interpreting the exhibit as a threat to crucify him. The prime minister and his family have recently been a target of explicit calls for violence. On Tuesday, a man carrying two knives was arrested outside his official residence in Jerusalem.

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In an interview earlier this week from his studio outside Tel Aviv, artist Itay Zalait said the installation, made of polymer materials and painted in lively colors, is meant to symbolize the “last supper of the Israeli democracy.”

“You have the prime minister of Israel sitting in the center of the table and grabbing and sucking all this rich food to himself. Now he’s practically finished this meal and he’s now at the stage of the dessert, which is referring to the last minutes of time we can do something to save Israeli democracy,” Zalait said.

The statue will likely meet with a favorable response in Tel Aviv. The beachfront city’s political inclinations lean leftward.

However, the Left’s rather overheated cries that Netanyahu’s rule spells the end of democracy – warnings that mimic those voiced by President Donald Trump’s detractors in the U.S. – appear to fall flat among most Israelis, evidenced by Netanyahu’s success in elections.

The public doesn’t even appear fazed by the three corruption cases the prime minister is facing, voting for him again in March. Indeed, his Likud party won an additional three Knesset seats, rising to 36 from 33. This suggests that the voting public agrees with Netanyahu that the cases are a witchhunt against him personally by a judicial system that is in control of the Left.

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However, the installation may hit a nerve in the current climate, as polls show the public is very unhappy with the government’s handling of the second wave of the corona crisis. One million Israelis are unemployed and the government has flip-flopped on its corona guidelines. The government’s incompetence, which few on either side of the political aisle dispute, has given Netanyahu’s hard-core opponents additional support from more mainstream Israelis angry about their economic situation.

As a result, the installation depicting Netanyahu as a hedonist out of touch with common people will likely resonate with a growing circle of disaffected Israelis.

Zalait himself noted that he found the imagery particularly poignant at a time when unemployment has skyrocketed and tens of thousands of families are struggling because of the coronavirus restrictions that have battered Israel’s economy.

It’s not the first time Zalait has taken to life-size art to express his opinion. Two years ago, he erected a statue of Israel’s then-culture minister, Miri Regev, wearing a long white dress and staring into a full-length mirror. The depiction was meant to protest Regev’s calls for legislation requiring artists to show “loyalty” to the state.

Before that, he built a golden statue of Netanyahu to mock what he said was the idolatry of many Israelis toward the longtime leader.