August 1, 2019


Will Netanyahu's Putin connection backfire in his hunt for votes? (Ksenia Svetlova, July 31, 2019, Al Monitor)

On July 28, Tel Aviv residents were surprised to find a huge poster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin smiling at each other on the outer wall of Metzudat Zeev, Likud's headquarters in the city. "Netanyahu, a different league," the poster read. Similar posters showing Netanyahu with US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also been displayed. These images, distributed via social networks and WhatsApp as well, are part of the Likud's new campaign, which also includes footage from Netanyahu's meetings with the three leaders.

As fate would have it, a day before the campaign launched, Russian authorities arrested more than 900 people in Moscow during an opposition protest that the police violently dispersed. The juxtaposition of events generated a lively debate in the media and via social networks in Hebrew and Russian, where many noted the anomaly in the height of Netanyahu and Putin as depicted on the poster: Putin, at a height of 170 centimeters (close to 5 feet 7 inches), looks a little taller than Netanyahu, who is 184 centimeters tall (6 feet tall). Other commenters remarked that they have no problem with contacts between Israel and Putin-led Russia, but what does bother them is using the image of a leader of an undemocratic nation in an election campaign. 

"It was strange for me to see this photo [of Netanyahu and Putin], when a moment ago I saw my friends getting clobbered on the streets of Moscow," Roman Goldshteyn, who immigrated to Israel from Moscow three and a half years ago, told Al-Monitor. Goldshteyn, who participated in opposition protests while living in the Russian capital, called on his friends to come to Likud headquarters to join a protest under the banner "Israel Without Putin."

"I see how Netanyahu and his coalition are trying to change the nature of the government so that he can continue serving as prime minister," Goldshteyn told Detaly, a Russian-language news website, on July 29. "In my opinion, we, Russian speakers who emigrated from there recently, especially know how dangerous this is for all Israelis, regardless of their political outlook. Our role is to show this to them."

Posted by at August 1, 2019 4:00 AM