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Bad Dog Takes a Bite Out of Israeli Politics

Snoopy, she ain’t: Meet Kaya Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s mouthy mutt who brought the Knesset back from summer vacation for a special urgent vote

Liel Leibovitz
August 02, 2017
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There are no second acts in Israeli politics. Unless, that is, you’re a real sly dog.

Just ask Kaya: The 10-year-old husky mix sauntered onto the scene two summers ago, when she was adopted by Israel’s first family. Announcing the newest member of their household on social media, the Netanyahus, posing in bright-colored t-shirts and wide smiles, virtue-signaled like pros. “When my son Avner heard Kaya was scheduled to be euthanized,” the prime minister wrote on his Facebook page, “he asked all of us to adopt her and save her life.” The dog, Bibi assured his constituents, was “gentle and of a good disposition.”

Kaya herself must not have gotten the memo: Five months later, during a reception at the Prime Minister’s Residence, she bit a member of Knesset who leaned in to pet her. Three months after that, she struck again, biting one of Netanyahu’s secret service agents. Eventually, she also bit the prime minister himself.

According to Israeli law, a dog who had bitten a person must be quarantined for 10 days in a municipal pound to make sure it was not rabid. But the prime minister, his mutt on his mind, helped drive legislation to keep offending dogs under house arrest instead, where they could be supervised by their owners. How important is the new legislation, nicknamed the Kaya Netanyahu Bill, to the boss? Important enough to summon the Knesset back from its summer break to a special vote, slated to take place today.

But Kaya, like her master, is a political animal, and she knows just how important it is to always control the narrative. Last week, she made headlines again when, during a walk in a Jerusalem park, she unceremoniously defecated on the lawn. A passerby snapped a photo of the dog’s excrement on her cellphone and uploaded it to Facebook, accusing Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son and Kaya’s primary caretaker, of failing to pick up after his pooch. The post went viral. It became the subject of a heated debate in the media, with Netanyahu Jr.’s pooper-scooper sensibilities edging out talk of violence on the Temple Mount and threats from Iran. In Israel, then, figuratively as well as literally speaking, these are the dog days of summer.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.

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