If imitation is indeed the best form of flattery, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surely admires U.S. President Donald Trump.
On December 19, Trump pinned a meme to the top of his Twitter account, warning his supporters that “They’re Not After Me, They’re After You. I’m Just In the Way.” The shadowy black-and-white photograph of Trump carrying the message struck an ominous tone, with the president pointing at the viewer, in the style of the famous “Uncle Sam Wants You” poster.
Three days later, on Saturday, Netanyahu’s social media accounts featured a near-identical post in Hebrew.
The only difference between the two posts was the expressions on their faces. While Netanyahu was also pointing forward, he was wearing a friendly smile, in contrast to Trump’s knowing glare.
Israeli political pundits quickly picked up on the copycat move, with Globes’ Tal Schneider musing that “with an election every quarter of the year, it seems that the local well of creativity is drying up.”
Another journalist, Hanna Kim, noted that Trump’s meme wasn’t original either. Another embattled world leader close to Netanyahu had employed it: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Indeed, the Trump version was quickly spotted by the Indian press when it first appeared. Modi’s somber demeanor in his photograph is similar to Trump’s, though he is not pointing – which suggests Netanyahu was inspired by the Trump version, not the Modi original.
Netanyahu and Trump’s legal woes have been running on eerily parallel tracks. Following years of investigations, Netanyahu was formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases on November 21. Less than a month later, Trump – who has also been under scrutiny for possible criminal misbehavior since the beginning of his presidency – was impeached by the House of Representatives over abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The cross-pollination between Trump and Netanyahu may not be a coincidence. Two weeks ago, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, Trump’s former campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, respectively, visited Israel to discuss the possibility of joining Netanyahu’s campaign as he heads into his third election in less than 12 months, following his failure to form a governing coalition after the past two elections.
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Netanyahu will face voters on March 2, assuming he defeats his challenger within Likud, Gideon Sa’ar, in the party primary this Thursday. Trump will only face voters in November 2020, but, like Netanyahu, is deep in the throes of a campaign to convince core supporters and swing voters that his legal troubles are the result of conspiratorial forces, fueled by his political enemies who are determined to bring him down.
Modi is also in dire straits as his Hindu nationalist party looks ahead to India’s state election early next year. In recent days, over 21 people have died and thousands have been arrested in violent protests against a new Indian citizenship law that Muslims are calling discriminatory.