- Title: Golden "King Bibi" statue causes guerrilla-art stir in Israel
- Date: 6th December 2016
- Summary: TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (DECEMBER 6, 2016) (REUTERS) GILDED STATUE OF ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU IN RABIN SQUARE SCULPTURE OF NETANYAHU'S HEAD PASSERBYS TAKING SELFIES AND PHOTOGRAPHING STATUE SIGN READING 'BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER' VARIOUS OF STATUE IN CITY SQUARE PEOPLE GATHERING NEAR STATUE, TAKING PICTURE WITH SCULPTOR ITAY ZALAIT (SOUNDBITE) (English) SCULPTOR ITAY ZALAIT SAYING: "You see the diversity between two kinds of people, one really wants to have this statue in the centre of the town and the other one just wants to break it so this relationship is really interesting". ZALAIT TALKING TO PASSERBY (SOUNDBITE) (English) SCULPTOR ITAY ZALAIT SAYING: "The time will tell if it's going to be a provocation or it's going to be a prophecy." MAN TAKING SELFIE STATUE IN MAIN SQUARE MAN YELLING 'TAKE IT DOWN, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BOW DOWN TO IT? IT NEEDS TO BE DESTROYED, THIS THING NEEDS TO BE DESTROYED" (SOUNDBITE) (English) TEL AVIV RESIDENT, NINA LOBEL, SAYING: "I think that this sculpture came up overnight, somebody put it, I think it's horrendous, whoever did it, he wanted to give us a political message against Netanyahu, they want to show him as a dictator and he is not such, I mean it's horrible what they did, I think they should take it out and I'm sure if Netanyahu will see it, he will ask to take it down right away". STATUE IN CITY SQUARE (SOUNDBITE) (English) TEL AVIV RESIDENT, UNNAMED, SAYING: "I think that the most important thing about it is that we have freedom here in Israel and everybody may say what he wants and what he thinks and that's the base of it and here you see an example of it, opinions, great, more opinions even better". VIEW OF GILDED STATUE COUPLE TAKING SELFIE (SOUNDBITE) (Hebrew) TEL AVIV RESIDENT, ALIZA GAL-OR, SAYING: "He's a king, I came and the first thing I did was bowed down, he has 30 mandates, he is the king of Israel, he succeeded." PASSERBYS GATHERING AROUND STATUE MAN READING WARNING POSTED BY THE TEL AVIV MUNICIPALITY THAT THE STATUE MUST BE REMOVED WARNING ON STATUE VIEWS OF STATUE VIEW OF RABIN SQUARE WHERE STATUE STANDS PEOPLE KNOCKING STATUE DOWN MAN YELLING 'I WILL TURN TO THE POLICE' MAN GUARDING STATUE ON GROUND, PEOPLE CHANTING 'BIBI GO HOME' ORTHODOX JEW SAYING: 'WHO KNOCKED IT OVER? PROBABLY A LEFTIST THAT WANTS TO MURDER HIM TOO' STATUE WITH BROKEN HEAD ON GROUND
- Embargoed: 21st December 2016 11:59
- Keywords: Israel Netanyahu Tel Aviv gold statue
- Location: TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
- City: TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
- Country: Israel
- Reuters ID: LVA0015BQXOHZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A gilded statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, erected in a Tel Aviv square and dubbed "King Bibi" by its guerrilla-artist creator, stirred bemusement from passersby's on Tuesday (December 6).
Sculptor Itay Zalait told reporters he had placed the four metre (13 foot) tall effigy of Netanyahu on a white pedestal in Rabin Square, adjacent to city hall, to test the limits of freedom of expression in Israel.
"You see the diversity between two kinds of people, one really wants to have this statue in the centre of the town and the other one just wants to break it so this relationship is really interesting," adding that "time will tell if it's going to be a provocation or it's going to be a prophecy".
The Israeli government and artists have been locked in a so-called "culture war" over steps by Culture Minister Miri Regev to withhold state funds from institutions that do not express loyalty to the state.
Posting on Facebook after the sculpture was erected, Regev called it an "expression of hatred towards Netanyahu". Tel Aviv municipal officials ordered Zalait to remove the statue and said they would haul it away and fine him if he refused.
Morning commuters gathered to snap selfies and photos and debate whether the statue should be seen as mockery of Netanyahu or homage to the right-wing prime minister, now in his fourth term and known by his childhood nickname "Bibi".
One passerby, Nina Lobel, said the portrayal of Netanyahu was "horrendous" in that the artist had wanted "to show him as a dictator".
Another passerby said "I think that the most important thing about it is that we have freedom here in Israel and everybody may say what he wants".
Aliza Gal-Or bowed down in jest in front of the statue, which Zalait said took him three months to sculpt, "he is the king of Israel," she said.
Shortly after city hall's deadline for the statue's removal expired, a man in the crowd pushed "King Bibi" to the ground. It made a soft "clink" as it hit the pavement and the artist, who seemed amused by it all, then took it away, still in one piece, on a truck.
Some chanted 'Bibi go home' while others blamed 'leftists' for knocking it over, adding they probably 'want to murder him too'.
Netanyahu and his wife Sara have drawn legal scrutiny and frequent headlines over whether state funds have been used to support what critics decry as their lavish lifestyle.
Both have denied any misuse of taxpayers' money.
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