It was the work of a Melbourne, Australia-based graffiti artist known as Lushsux, who previously made headlines with a scantily clad mural of Hillary Clinton dressed in a stars-and-stripes bathing suit, which he later covered up with a black burqa. The artist told Reuters that he hoped the mural of Trump and Netanyahu would draw attention to Palestinians stuck in “an indoor prison.”
The Bethlehem wall has become a canvas for artists who protest it, as many Palestinians fear that the barrier is an obstacle to their dream of creating their own independent state. Lushsux’s graffiti, which often features world leaders and celebrities, is a particular attraction for locals and tourists, who’ve posted photos with the murals on social media. His murals take three to four hours to paint, and he prefers to paint overnight to avoid being disrupted, according to Israeli newspaper Haartez.
Israel began building the 420-mile-long wall that separates the country from the West Bank nearly 15 years ago. Some parts are built from concrete slabs, others with wire. Israelis call the wall a security measure and argue that it has decreased the number of suicide attacks on their soil. But Palestinian activists say the barrier is an apartheid wall that in many instances divides their villages.
“The wall is a message in itself,” the artist told Reuters, against the backdrop of a cement section of the wall, his face hidden by a headdress. “I don’t need to write ‘Free Palestine,’ or something like that, something really direct … that people will ignore.”
“I just paint what I usually paint and maybe people will start looking at the background and looking at the razor wire and looking at people stuck in here, and maybe that’ll work better,” he said.
The mural was not the first time Trump has appeared as a subject of Lushsux’s art. Trump, who has frequently cited the Israeli barrier as an example of the type of wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, was featured in an August mural the artist painted. The mural depicts the president laying his hand on an image of the wall, with a thought bubble that reads, “I’m going to build you a brother.”
“You know, you look at Israel — Israel has a wall and everyone said do not build a wall, walls do not work — 99.9 percent of people trying to come across that wall cannot get across and more,” he said in a late January call with the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, according to a transcript published in August by The Washington Post.
By Sunday morning, the mural had been painted over. It was not immediately clear who painted it over or why.
Lushsux swiftly painted over the space a second time, with a portrait of Netanyahu making a thumbs-up sign. A large speech bubble read, “Nice” in all-caps letters.
“The honorable Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is pleased with yesterday's developments,” he tweeted with a photo of the new mural.