Artist’s statue of Netanyahu causes a stir outside Tel Aviv city hall

The four-meter tall structure was constructed in the likeness of monuments erected by despotic leaders; artist says he sought to test limitation on freedom of expression with the creation.

An artist’s portrayal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the mock likeness of monuments erected by despotic leaders caused a commotion after it was placed in front of the Tel Aviv Municipality in the city’s central Rabin Square on Tuesday.

The four-meter (13-foot) tall structure made by local artist Itay Zaliet, 37, was constructed from cardboard and polymer clay and was coated with a glossy, gold-plaited covering. The figure resembling Netanyahu was placed atop a white pedestal in a move meant to criticize the premier.

The artist, apparently disgruntled with the country’s leadership, said he sought to test limitations on freedom of speech with the installment. It was not initially clear if he had received a permit to place the structure in the public area.

“With the statue I wanted to bring to light several issues — first of all, to know what is permitted and what is prohibited to say in Israel in the year 2016,” Zaliet told The Jerusalem Post’s sister Hebrew publication Ma’ariv.

“A lot of things happen in this country, and this statue may seem like a curiosity but perhaps it is also a vision of the future that lies ahead,” said the artist. “After all, who believed two years ago that Donald Trump would become the President of the United States?”

City inspectors arrived to the scene nearly an hour after the statue was placed and ordered Zaliet to remove it from the location, declaring it “an obstacle to a public space.”

The Tel Aviv Municipality also ordered the voluntary removal of the statue by noon Tuesday, otherwise leading to its removal by force.

Among those who gathered to view the spectacle was Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Arnon Giladi, who condemned it as a “cheap provocation of senseless people who are not willing to accept the decision of the voter.”

“The same artists always make sure to speak loftily about freedom of expression, but only when it concerns a political position they support,” he added.

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