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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2019
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 had been quickly spotted by the Indian press when it appeared. Modi’s somber demeanor in the photograph is similar to Trump’s, though he is not pointing – which suggests that Netanyahu was inspired by the Trump version, not the Modi original.
Trump copies 2019 Modi Campaign. Okay. That's new! pic.twitter.com/ha8DmXfy4l
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) December 19, 2019
Netanyahu and Trump’s legal woes have been running on often eerie parallel. Following years of investigations, on November 21 Netanyahu was formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases. 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 within one year, following his failure to form a governing coalition after the past two elections.