Artist Behind Toppled Golden Netanyahu Statue 'Intrigued' if It Will Lead to Punishment

Itay Zalait, who erected a statue of the Israeli prime minister in central Tel Aviv, specifically cited the case of the Bedouin activist jailed over a satirical Facebook post about the recent spate of fires.

People carry a statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after toppling it, Tel Aviv, Israel, December 6, 2016.
Oded Balilty, AP

The Israeli artist who erected a golden statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in central Tel Aviv on Tuesday told Haaretz that part of his reason for installing the art work was to see if it will lead to any type of punishment.

"I am not waiting, but it is certainly intriguing," Itay Zalait said.

Israeli sculptor Itay Zalait stands next to his artwork, a statue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tel Aviv, Israel, December 6, 2016.
Baz Ratner, Reuters

"Will it lead to sanctions of one kind or another like in the cases of the Facebook post, after which somebody was put under arrest for four days?" Zalait wondered, referring to an incident in which a Bedouin activist was jailed – and subsequently released – over a satirical Facebook post about the recent spate of fires.

Not long after the statue was erected, the effigy had already been slapped with an official sticker, calling on its owner to remove it. Asked about installing the statue without a permit, Zalait replied: "I am not sure the statue committee would have approved a statue of Bibi [Netanyahu] in the middle of Rabin Square."

Zalait says the fact he did not seek official approval of the statue influenced his choice of materials. "It is from wood and polymers," he explained. "There was a practical issue because the statue did not receive a permit, so I would need to make it relatively quickly because it is an unapproved act." Zalait said.

A few hours after the statue was erected, it was taken down by citizens who were invited to the square to "topple Netanyahu."

In recent weeks, Zalait flooded news desks across the country with emails announcing that he "will undertake a subversive artistic political act which will garner much media attention."

Yael Dayan, a former Tel Aviv councilwoman, said the statue served as a "big middle finger in all our faces. Like [Netanyahu] is the king of Amona, he is the king of Tel Aviv. It shows Israelis that Tel Aviv too is under Netanyahu's regime." Nonetheless, she said she objected to it being placed without a permit.