The weekly Knesset faction meetings of each political party normally follow a similar and often mundane pattern.
Journalists and party officials gather in the designated faction conference room to hear the party leader deliver a statement about the issue of the day and, sometimes, take a few questions. The press is then ushered out to allow lawmakers to discuss the week’s legislative agenda behind closed doors.
In recent years, however, Likud party faction meetings have regularly turned into mini pro-Netanyahu rallies, with dozens of party activists present to welcome the prime minister to the room and cheer him on during his speech.
At one such meeting in January 2017, shortly after police opened a criminal investigation against him, the devoted supporters burst into a round of “Bibi Melech Yisrael,” changing the biblical-theme song from “David is the King of Israel,” to use the prime minister’s nickname.
— Raoul Wootliff (@RaoulWootliff) January 16, 2017
Monday’s meeting, the first one held by Netanyahu this Knesset summer session, may have broken new ground in this respect. A number of Likud members present were promised they would receive a signed photo of Netanyahu in return for their attendance, The Times of Israel has learned.
According to two of the activists at the faction meeting, the Likud members were told that if they came to meeting at the Knesset, they would be given the gift as a sign of appreciation.
“Who doesn’t want a photo signed by Netanyahu himself?” said party member Ilan Nechami.
“You want to buy it off me?“ he grinned. “Thirty shekels. It will be worth a lot more later.”
Another Likud activist said he was going to frame his copy and “pass it on to my kids.”
The Likud faction spokesperson said he was not aware that the activists had been given the photos in return for their attendance and did not know who was behind the stunt.
As Netanyahu entered the room, some people waved their photos in the air, while others dashed towards the prime minister, in the hope of snapping a real-life photo by his side.
Despite their enthusiasm, the Netanyahu supporters may have been somewhat disappointed by Monday’s showing.
After keeping his supporters (and journalists) waiting for more than half an hour, Netanyahu spoke for just over one minute, giving little meat to the hungry crowd.
In his brief comments, Netanyahu told the audience that the Knesset faced “an important summer session ahead.”
“This is a good time for the State of Israel,” he said, citing the Giro D’Italia cycling competition and the European Judo Championships that took place in the country over the last week.
“But we also have challenges,” he added, “and we will stand up to them and continue to face them, together.”
And then, with no defiant declarations or defamation of detractors, the public, including the Likud activists, were herded out of the room.
At least they got a photo to remember it by.