Middle East

Netanyahu statue: Golden likeness of PM appears in Tel Aviv

Man takes photo of statue of Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu created by artist Zalait as a political protest outside Tel Aviv's city hall Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The 15ft tall golden statue attracted great interest early in the day

Commuters in Tel Aviv awoke to the unusual sight of a towering golden statue of the Israeli leader on Tuesday morning.

The 15ft (4.5m) statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared near the city hall.

The artist, Itay Zalait, said the statue - nicknamed "King Bibi" - was partly inspired by the idol-like status of Mr Netanyahu among some Israelis.

Officials said the statue was erected without permission and must be removed.

It took Mr Zalait two months to sculpt the statue, before he placed it on a white pedestal in Rabin Square overnight.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many locals took advantage of the chance to snap a selfie with the "prime minister"

Passers-by reacted to the guerrilla artwork with a mix of amusement and disapproval, with many stopping to take selfies.

The golden statue was toppled by a spectator close to the lunchtime deadline for its removal, though it was unclear if it was intentional.

Mr Zalait then removed his artwork in one piece.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The artwork has now been removed

In Judeo-Christian cultures, a golden statue is sometimes seen as a reference to the story of the golden calf, an idol worshipped by the Israelites in a story from the Book of Exodus.

Such statues have also been associated with autocratic leaders such as that of Chairman Mao in China or Turkmenistan's Saparmurat Niyazov.

"Many people in Israel refer to Benjamin Netanyahu as 'King Bibi', so it was only natural to put the king on the square of the kings, the previous name of Rabin Square,'' Mr Zalait told the AP news agency.

"I just want to ask the question like to see if it's going to make some change in the people's mind."

In a post on Facebook, Culture Minister Miri Regev said the artist was "disconnected" and his "only golden calf is the hatred of Netanyahu".

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