Sculptor tests freedom of expression in Israel

Golden statue of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dubbed "King Bibi", causes mixed reactions with officials and public.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Artist Itai Zalait poses for a picture with a statue of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, made by the artist as a form of protest against the premier and placed without official permission outside Tel Aviv's city hall, on December 6, 2016.

A gilded statue of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dubbed "King Bibi" by its creator, stirred condemnation from Israel's culture minister and was toppled by an onlooker after a brief public appearance on Tuesday.

Sculptor Itay Zalait said he had placed the four metre (13 foot) tall effigy of Netanyahu on a white pedestal in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, adjacent to city hall, to test the limits of freedom of expression in Israel.

Morning commuters gathered to snap 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".

Later during the day, 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, took it away, still in one piece, on a truck.

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.

TRTWorld and agencies