Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his election campaign to the streets of Jerusalem on Monday with a visit to the iconic Mahane Yehuda market, where he toured the stalls and stopped for a coffee.
The prime minister, who was accompanied by Likud MK Miri Regev, moved through the market’s narrow passageways surrounded by a phalanx of security guards and police.
“I remember the shuk [market] from my childhood,” Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page following the visit. “It has gone though a lot of ups and downs. There were the difficult times of terror attacks. I am glad that our resolute policies are first and foremost preserving the security in Jerusalem and bringing prosperity to the shuk.”
“Thank you, people of the Mahane Yehuda shuk, for the support and warm welcome,” he wrote of the market, which is considered a bastion of traditional Likud voters.
Local media were not alerted to Netanyahu’s movements ahead of the event due to security concerns, Channel 2 reported. It also said Israel’s security services denied that such concerns precluded media coverage.
And the Ynet news site quoted a Likud source as saying that organizers were worried the premier would meet with protests from critics of his economic policies.
Although there were no reports of unruly behavior, one proprietor claimed to have slipped in a subtle protest against the government.
The snipe came when Netanyahu took time to squeeze into the Sirtaki coffee shop along with his entourage and ordered a refreshing beverage. The prime minister paid for the coffee with a NIS 100 note ($25) he smartly pulled from his pocket.
The owner of the cafe, identified only as Orit, told Channel 2 that the pile of change she gave Netanyahu included an unnecessarily large number of coins.
“It was important to me to remind him that while he raises the Iranian threat… we, the independent business owners in the country, are aware of the daily difficulties of getting by, even for small change.”
Israel is scheduled to hold national elections on March 17, during which Netanyahu will seek reelection at the head of his Likud party.