A video showing a senior Likud party member being adorned with a medallion featuring leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu’s image as a show of fealty has drawn comparisons of cult worship from rivals.
The video was taken during a Likud party event at a private home in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Mordechai on Sunday evening, which was attended by several party MKs, including former finance minister MK Israel Katz.
In the short clip, Likud activist Heidi Mozes is handed the medallion which she then hung around Katz’s neck as he and others sat at a large table.
“This is a declaration of loyalty to our party,” said Mozes, who is contesting in the upcoming primaries for a place on the Likud slate in the elections.
“We are proud to be in this party which has excellent representatives and a soon-to-be wonderful prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” she said.
Katz, who is seen as a potential challenger to Netanyahu as Likud leader, appears unenthusiastic about the necklace, and quickly passes the medallion to the person sitting next to him.
אמיתי – בכנס הליכוד הערב בגבעת זאב עונדים לח״כ ישראל כ״ץ תליון זהב בדמות נתניהו שמהווה ״שרשרת הצהרת נאמנות״. העונדת היא היידי מוזס שמתמודדת בפריימריס pic.twitter.com/BQUlgFnj13
— דפנה ליאל (@DaphnaLiel) July 17, 2022
The medallion features Netanyahu’s face along with a representation of the Israeli flag.
On Monday, Katz dismissed the significance of the incident, tweeting that he was not even aware that the necklace featured a likeness of Netanyahu.
Writing that he “doesn’t ever wear necklaces,” Katz said. “I got rid of it immediately without knowing what the chain is.”
He wrote that he would not even have bothered addressing the matter if it had not been blown up in the media.
“This is what a trend of distortion looks like,” he said.
Netanyahu himself on Monday dismissed the medallion, saying in a tweeted video that “we don’t need medallions; we don’t need declarations of loyalty.” The only loyalty, he said “is to the flag and to our values.”
MK Yair Golan, who is challenging for the leadership of his left-wing Meretz party, tweeted that the Likud party has become “a personality cult, a cult of the golden head, a cult, the cult of a chain with a picture.”
Yamina party MK Yomtob Kalfon described the medallion as the “new tefillin,” a reference to the phylacteries that Jews wear during morning prayers and which are considered among the holiest items in the religion.
Mozes, the daughter of former United Torah Judaism MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes, defended the ceremony Monday, telling Radio 103FM that “if the Queen of England can have a coin [with her face on it], why shouldn’t Netanyahu?”
Mozes rejected the idea that the medallion is a form of idol worship: “We are not a cult, we are a party.”
Mozes pointed to the left-wing Labor party whose leader Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli has strong support from within the movement’s ranks.
“When we see all the members of the Labor party coming and choosing Michaeli to continue as chair is that not idol worship? What is the difference? When it happens on the right it is ‘idol worship’ but on the left it isn’t?” she said.
“What is the problem,” Mozes challenged, describing Netanyahu as a “Churchillian” figure.
The medallions are available on the internet for NIS 79-99 ($22.8-$28.5) from the “Only Bibi” website which backs Netanyahu’s return to the premiership.
They are available in gold or silver coloring, and are described as “not just a medallion” but “a message.”
“They can slander, they can degrade, we are here to show love,” the website declares.