Israeli Web users mock Netanyahu’s $127,000 airplane bed

May 13, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts during a March press conference. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM – The faces of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, superimposed onto the body of the infamously callous French Queen Marie Antionette with a caption reading: “If they have no money to rent an apartment, let them sleep on the flight to London,” is just one of a new batch of memes making rounds on social media here after reports surfaced that Israel’s first couple had a double bed installed into a private chamber for a five-hour flight to London three weeks ago.

The bed, which supposedly cost taxpayers more than $127,000, comes at a time when rookie Finance Minister Yair Lapid is attempting to make controversial increases to tax rates and massive budget cuts to public services in a bid to offset the country’s deficit. It also comes against the backdrop of renewed social justice protests that drew more than 10,000 Israelis into the streets Saturday night.

It’s not the first time that Bibi (Netanyahu’s nickname) and Sara have been the butt of online jokes. In February, the premier was portrayed with his signature hand-drawn bomb in the shape of ice cream scoops after reporters discovered that he was extremely partial to the treat. A more recent variation of this meme references the bed controversy as well. And his “nuclear duck” comments, made at the UN in 2012, also drew some creatively critical images and videos at the time.

While there have been rumors that Netanyahu himself enjoys the online memes, the “bed” jokes hint at some of the furor over Israel’s high-spending political elite at a time when Lapid has called for the country’s middle class to tighten their belts for the near future.

The bed incident, which his office explained by saying they were unaware of the extra cost of installing a bed and that the prime minister was entitled to a good night’s sleep, has been contrasted by some Israeli Web users to another iconic photo – shot by Israeli photographer David Rubinger – of former premier Menachem Begin trying to sleep on a row of seats during a 12-hour flight to the U.S.

The caption reads: “Looks like Menachem Begin was stupid. He did not know what was entitled to a prime minister. 12 hours to the U.S. without a double bed.”

Ruth Eglash has worked as a correspondent for The Washington Post in Jerusalem for more than a year. Before that, she freelanced for numerous international media outlets such as USA Today and Christian Science Monitor, as well as working as a reporter and senior editor at The Jerusalem Post.
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Max Fisher | May 13, 2013