Netanyahu makes bizarre video call to Saudi blogger during primary campaign
Battling a challenge that could have lost him his premiership, Benjamin Netanyahu took the time on Thursday to make a FaceTime call with Mohammed Saud, a blogger and vocal admirer of Israel, who wished the prime minister victory in his primary challenge.
Saud tweeted a video of Netanyahu talking to him on a mobile phone and wrote: “I hope he wins and brings peace to the Middle East. Netanyahu I appreciate and admire you. God bless you and all the citizens of Israel.”
Netanyahu told Saud that it was too bad that he couldn't vote “because you would make a fantastic Likudnik”, in reference to supporters of his ruling Likud party.
Saud then started to sing a chant about Netanyahu commonly sung by the prime minister's supporters.
Netanyahu on Thursday batted off the challenge from his Likud rival Gideon Saar by taking 72.5 percent of the party membership's vote in the primary contest.
Saar's challenge came as Netanyahu is bracing for an unprecedented third election within a year, to be held on 2 March, and battling corruption charges, which opponents say disqualifies him from office.
After his primary victory, Netanyhau tweeted: "A huge win! Thank you to Likud members for their trust, support and love."
Saud tweeted in Hebrew saying he was happy that he made Netanyahu laugh.
“Netanyahu works hard, and has no life, and all of this for the sake of Israel to be strong and secure. Netanyahu does not find time to rest, and I’m happy that I made him laugh a bit, what a joy to see Netanyahu delighted.”
Saudi Arabia and Israel have no formal diplomatic ties, but have grown closer and closer in recent months over shared interests and converging opposition of Iran.
Saud visited Israel in July as part of a delegation of journalists from countries in the Arabian peninsula, Egypt and Iraq's Kurdistan region.
'Netanyahu does not find time to rest, and I’m happy that I made him laugh a bit, what a joy to see Netanyahu delighted'
- Mohammed Saud
There he met Netanhayu, his son Yair and the far-right activist and MP Yehuda Glick, who has advocated for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa compound, one of Islam's holiest sites. Saud also took a tour of Israel's parliament, the Knesset.
When he tried to visit the Old City of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa compound, Saud was chased and driven out by Palestinian residents, who called him “trash”, “cheap” and “Zionist”, and spat in his face.
“Go pray in the Knesset,” someone told the Saudi as he walked through the streets of the Old City.
In August, Saud extended an invitation to all Israelis to visit Saudi Arabia in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13.