Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot saved an Israeli celebrity in a dispute with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gadot, who usually avoids politics, is united behind Rotem Sela, one of the top models and Israeli TV host, who drew shots from Netanyahu for criticizing his election campaign for fear of an Arab minority in the country.
Sela’s rebuke of Netanyahu, and his call for equality for all Israelis on an Instagram post, prompted the prime minister to take himself to social media and lectured him that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jews, and that’s all.”
Gadot responded Sunday night with its own support post to Sela to more than 28 million followers on Instagram:
“Love your neighbor as yourself. This is not a matter of right or left. Jewish or Arabic. Secular or religious. It’s a matter of dialogue, “wrote Gadot. “Rotem, my brother, you are an inspiration to all of us.”
Netanyahu, who is in intense competition for re-election, has sought to mobilize his religious and nationalist base with allegations that his challengers will form a coalition government with Arab political parties. This strategy has attracted allegations of incitement from Arab leaders and other political opponents. Arab parties have never sat in government coalitions.
Over the weekend, Culture Minister Miri Regev, a replacement for Netanyahu at the ruling Likud Party, repeated his mantra in a television interview. Sela, best known in Israel for being a carrier of popular reality shows, watching at home and responding angrily.
“What is the problem with the Arabs? Gosh, there are also Arab citizens in this country,” he wrote to hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. “When will someone in the government tell the public that Israel is the country of all its citizens and that everyone is born equal?”
Netanyahu, who has a young technology assistant team devoted to social media outreach, is quickly responding by correcting Sela that his government has passed laws that perpetuate Israel as a nation-state of the Jews. He followed up the next day with another shot at the beginning of his weekly Cabinet meeting.
“I want to clarify things that, apparently, are not clear to people who are a little confused in Israeli society,” he said. Israel “is a national state, not all its citizens, but only Jews,” he said.
Sela, whose story was quickly bombarded with bad comments, vowed to continue speaking, hoping for a leadership that “gives real hope for peace, equality and love, not incitement and division.”
While Israeli entertainers, like their American counterparts, have a reputation for holding liberal views, they are generally wary of expressing themselves politically in recent years for fear of harming themselves commercially.
Many players rely on government grants and city contracts, so taking unpopular positions can hurt them financially. Netanyahu had previously used controversial comments during the election period to gather such entertainers along with the media and other “elites” to strengthen their traditional base, the working class.
In the current campaign, he is aiming for Israeli Arabs, who make up around 20 percent of Israel’s nearly 9 million people. He has been zoning especially on prominent Arab MP Ahmad Tibi and, using his own nickname, said the election had fallen to “Bibi or Tibi.”
The Arabs hold full citizenship rights, and Netanyahu has allocated a large enough budget to their communities to try to close the wide economic gap. But they are also often discriminated against, and the election time has come to be an easy support for Netanyahu. Israeli hardline groups accuse Arabs of being loyal for sympathizing with their Palestinian brothers and with enemies elsewhere in the Arab world.
Facing the possibility of defeat in the last election in 2015, Netanyahu helped turn the tide with a midday video where