Johnson or Yeltsin? Netanyahu’s Boris botch
B is for blunder

Johnson or Yeltsin? Netanyahu’s Boris botch

Prime minister names long-deceased Russian president as his interlocutor when he met last week with UK leader

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to 10 Downing Street, September 5, 2019 (Haim Tzach/GPO)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to 10 Downing Street, September 5, 2019 (Haim Tzach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must have met dozens of world leaders during his record-breaking time as premier, so many that he apparently has trouble keeping track of all their names.

At the Sunday cabinet meeting, Netanyahu slipped up over the difference between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is very much alive but fighting for his political life, and long-deceased Russian president Boris Yeltsin who passed away in 2007.

The fumble was made in front of media as it covered the start of the meeting.

In reporting his recent activities to ministers Netanyahu said, “I returned from a very quick visit to London where I met with Prime Minister Boris Yeltsin…”

Then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, right, welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, in Moscow, March 11, 1997. (TASS-POOL/AP)

Several voices quickly chimed in to point out that the prime minister surely meant “Johnson.”

“Boris Johnson,” Netanyahu corrected himself, and with a grin, said he was just checking to see if everyone was paying attention, drawing polite chuckles.

Israeli social media activists were quick to lampoon the lapse, editing Yeltsin’s face onto a campaign poster Netanyahu’s Likud party had published ahead of last April’s elections that featured the prime minister with US President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu flew to London last Thursday where he met with Johnson for half an hour. Johnson is busy with overseeing his country’s exit from the European Union despite opposition from parliament, and even within his own cabinet.

Yelstin was Russian president during the 1990s when Netanyahu first became prime minister of Israel in 1996. The two met in Moscow in 1997.

Similar to his later British namesake, Russian Boris’s time in office was marked by internal political turmoil.

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