'King Netanyahu' artist: I wanted to test limits of free speech

Artist who placed a gilded statue of Netanyahu in Rabin Square: 'I wanted to test freedom of speech in 2016 in Israel.'

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Netanyahu statue in Rabin Sq
Netanyahu statue in Rabin Sq
Photo: Miriam Alster, Flash 90

A gilded statue of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was placed Monday night in Rabin Square near the center of Tel-Aviv. The statue is four and a half meters tall.

Itai Zalait, the artist who created the statue, explained in an interview with Army Radio that his goal was to stimulate public discussion on the limits of freedom of expression by placing a statue of the “king,” as he put it, in the center of Tel-Aviv.

“I am an artist who deals primarily with freedom and freedom of expression. I started working on the subjects which I am used to working on, and I felt that there is a flow around me that I must address, changes connected to matters of freedom of expression. I wanted to test this subject in 2016 in Israel. Will it be possible to set up a statue like this, or will it be removed, or will it be followed with sanctions?”

Zalait admitted that his creation was political in nature, but noted: “I am less about the matter of hatred or not. I want to test the fabric of the society here. There is a very large segment in the nation here which maybe wants - and would be very happy about - statues like this, and maybe what now is perceived as provocation will, in two years, be the reality. The question is what will happen beyond - let’s not be delusional.”

“This is a provocation to both sides of the political map. Online, the term “King Bibi” comes up tens of thousands of times. I just took that term from reality and put it in its worthy location: the square of the kings of Israel.”

The Tel-Aviv municipality taped a message to the statue, demanding that it be removed by 12:58pm Tuesday afternoon or the city will remove it and fine the perpetrator.

Acting Tel-Aviv mayor Assaf Zamir said that “this will be treated just as any other instance of placing something in public space without permission. The message is permissible, but the statue has to go.”

Zamir noted that “Tel-Aviv is a political center and the capital of demonstrations and protests, and we encourage any kind of protest or expression of opinion.”