Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, apparently, President Reuven Rivlin with oil paintings of their respective faces during his controversial official visit to the country.
Duterte gave Netanyahu a portrait of the Israeli leader, which was spotted propped up against a wall by a correspondent from the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth daily.
In the Netanyahu portrait, artist unknown, the prime minister stares directly at the viewer, with a soft halo of light surrounding his face.
His slightly upturned mouth combined with the muted tones used by the artist, could be said to suggest similarities with the famous quizzical smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
ההפתעה של דוטרטה לנתניהו: דיוקן שמן של…נתניהו. אמיתי לגמרי. pic.twitter.com/vZK64VC7nA
— Itamar Eichner (@itamareichner) September 4, 2018
Members of the Philippines’ leader’s delegation were spotted entering the President’s Residence on Tuesday with an easel and what appeared to be another painting, wrapped in brown paper.
המתנה של דוטרטה לנשיא ריבלין: פורטרט של הנשיא. הפיליפינים סירבו לחשוף בפנינו את הדיוקן pic.twitter.com/e3vdrfQoqH
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) September 4, 2018
A journalist from the Kan broadcaster attempted, unsuccessfully, to have the messengers display the gift.
The Philippines’ leader’s visit has been criticized in Israel, partly due to comments he made in 2016, when he said he would “be happy to slaughter” millions of drug users in his country and likened himself in that context to Hitler, who also slaughtered millions.
He later apologized for having mentioned Jews, but not for his endorsement of mass killings of those in the drug trade.
During a Monday visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Duterte called Adolf Hitler “insane” and pledged that his country would fight against other such leaders.
While in Jerusalem he publicly apologized to Barack Obama for calling him a “son of a whore” but defended his recent remarks in which he said there would be many rape cases in a Philippine city “if there were many beautiful women.” Duterte told the crowd he was joking, but also said he was just exercising his right to freedom of speech in a democracy.
For Duterte, the visit may be most significant for his drive to seek weapons deals outside of the US.
Ahead of a meeting with Rivlin he said he has instructed his military personnel to purchase weapons and military equipment exclusively from Israel. The US is “a good friend,” but if we buy there are restrictions, as there are with Germany and China, added Duterte.
Duterte’s government has acknowledged 5,000 deaths and 50,000 arrests in his war on the drug trade. Human rights groups put the figures far higher, and say most of those dead are the urban poor.