After a Likud lawmaker went rogue and took a selfie with US President Donald Trump during his welcoming ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed the Foreign Ministry to eliminate ministers’ handshakes from official state receptions, the daily Israel Hayom reported Thursday.
Netanyahu had required the presence of all cabinet members at the red carpet reception for Trump on Monday. Ultimately, save for Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, all lined up at Ben Gurion Airport to shake hands with Trump.
While not a minister himself, Likud MK Oren Hazan took advantage of the opportunity, pushing his way through the line of dignitaries to snatch a selfie with Trump. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out and tried to move Hazan’s arm, but to no avail.
Hazan later posted the picture on his Facebook page with the caption, “Thank you Mr. President — it was my pleasure!”
“It’s a real embarrassment,” one senior Israeli official fumed in a private conversation. “He should be sanctioned over this.”
“Anyone who didn’t cringe immediately when seeing the images [of Hazan] on TV needs do some soul-searching to check if he still loves and respects this country,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of Hazan’s own Likud party, said Thursday.
“This was a scandal,” he added in an interview with Army Radio. “This is not how we behave at an official ceremony.”
According to the Israel Hayom report, there were other reasons for the no-handshakes directive, including time considerations, as the ministers looking to get in their moment of fame with the US president caused the ceremony to drag on longer than planned.
The White House had reportedly originally opted against the red carpet reception, citing the fact that the 28-hour stop in Israel was designated as a work visit and not an official one. But after significant pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Trump team relented, only asking that the event be as short as possible.
Hazan wasn’t the only lawmaker to go off script. Education Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly irked Trump officials by urging the US president during the airport reception “to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
“That’s an idea,” Trump replied, before moving onto the next minister in the line.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also stopped Trump to tell him that a car accident in Tel Aviv earlier in the day was possibly a terror attack.
Despite Erdan’s assertion, police had ruled out terrorism an hour earlier, determining the incident — in which a man driving without a license hit a bicyclist, a man on a motor scooter and a pedestrian — to be a car accident. Erdan had not been updated because he did not have his cellphone with him, he later claimed.
“When Trump landed in Rome after the Israel visit, everyone saw what a brief, effective ceremony looks like with a line of senior officials shaking hands with the president and none of them tried to steal an extra minute of small talk… let alone take a selfie with him,” a senior Israeli official told Israel Hayom.
“From today, even in Israel, the shameful ploys we witnessed will not be repeated,” he concluded.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.