Israeli Defense Minister: Iran nuclear deal ‘in the emergency room’


BEERSHEBA, Israel: Props are an integral part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s repertoire when giving public speeches – from the United Nations-drawn bombs to a wall of CDs and binders allegedly seized in Iran by Mossad agents.
Now the former prime minister – famed for his flair for the dramatic – is heading into the campaign trail with a new shtick. Behold: the Bibibus.
The strange bulletproof vehicle is part popmobile, part movie set, and 100% vintage Netanyahu. As Israel heads to the polls for the fifth time in less than four years, the seasoned politician is using the Bibibus to draw eager crowds of supporters and once again make himself the center of attention for a weary electorate.
At a rally in the southern city of Beersheba on Tuesday, Netanyahu addressed a crowd of about 200 people in a mall parking lot. Flanked by his former finance minister, he spoke on a podium in the back of the modified delivery truck. Its side wall had been replaced with bulletproof glass and its air-conditioned interior was backlit by a huge LED screen projecting the logo of its Likud party onto a waving Israeli flag.
Netanyahu does not actually get into the vehicle. Instead, he serves as a moving stage that is moved from town to town to serve as the backdrop for his appearances in the countryside.
Commentators have variously dubbed it the “aquarium truck”, the “Bibimobile” and the “Bibibus” – mimicking Netanyahu’s nickname. Likud promotes mobile rallies under the name “Bibiba” or “Bibi is coming,” and says the truck is a necessary security precaution.
“I have to stay here, unfortunately,” he told the crowd, clapping his hand against the glass separating him from the crowd of cheering supporters before pledging to fight the rising cost of living and inflation.
Likud says the vehicle and its bulletproof glass were adopted to comply with security measures required by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency.
But there may be more to the story. No other politician has adopted similar protocols and the bus is not fully fortified. The bulletproof glass appears to cover only part of the vehicle, and when he spoke at the podium, a window was open and Netanyahu was exposed to the crowd. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.
Israel is holding legislative elections on November 1, the fifth since a protracted political crisis began in early 2019. Like the other four, the upcoming vote will largely be a referendum on Netanyahu’s fitness to govern, and he could once again fail to form a lasting coalition even if his party gets the most votes.
Netanyahu, who ruled the country from 2009 to last year, has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different cases, and his high-profile trial has dragged on for over two years. He denied any wrongdoing and lashed out at law enforcement and the courts, accusing them of carrying out a politically motivated witch hunt.
Netanyahu remains the country’s most popular politician, and his supporters worship him with cult-like reverence. But corruption allegations have deeply divided Israelis, and last year he was ousted from office for the first time in 12 years by an unwieldy coalition united largely in opposition to his continued rule.
That coalition collapsed in June, triggering new elections and raising the possibility of Netanyahu’s return to power after a year in the desert as opposition leader.
The former prime minister, who turns 73 next month, remains a tireless campaigner and whistles almost daily, staging campaign rallies from the back of the Bibibus.
The bulletproof glass has not shielded Netanyahu from critics, who view the Bibibus as another symbol of his disconnect with ordinary Israelis. Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported that renting the truck for two months of campaigning cost the Likud party 700,000 shekels ($200,000), a huge expense at a time when many are tightening their belts.
One of Likud’s main rivals, the Machane Mamlachti party, released a video mocking Netanyahu, contrasting his appearance behind glass with a clip of his leader, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, surrounded by a crowd of supporters. Ben Caspit, an Israeli columnist and longtime critic of Netanyahu, called the Bibibus “grotesque” and “a strange mistake”.
In the face of criticism, Netanyahu redoubled his efforts and adopted the Bibibus. Likud has released a campaign video in which the former leader dramatically steps out of the cab of the truck and wipes its huge windows.
“No bulletproof glass will separate my heart from yours,” the beaming former leader says.


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