Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman joked on Tuesday on Twitter that the Israeli military should recruit Egyptian football star Mohamed Salah, prompting a response from Arab Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi.
“I will be calling the chief of staff immediately to tell him to hire Mohamed Salah for the Israeli army,” Lieberman wrote in Hebrew, after Salah led Liverpool to a 5-2 victory over Roma in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.
אני מתקשר עכשיו לרמטכל ואומר לו להחתים את מוחמד סלאח לשירות קבע
— אביגדור ליברמן (@AvigdorLiberman) April 24, 2018
The comment prompted a response from Tibi of the Joint List, who mocked the defence minister’s suggestion by citing Lieberman’s harsh statements about Egypt in the past.
“I’m sure he’d love to meet you, Mr. Lieberman. He will be happy to hear about the sniper you gave an award to and to know your plans for the Aswan Dam,” he tweeted, referencing Lieberman’s suggestion in 2001 that Israel should bomb Egypt’s Aswan Dam in response to the government increasing military presence in the Sinai region.
On Monday Salah was named Player of the Year by England’s Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) yesterday, becoming the first Egyptian to receive the award.
But the Liverpool forward caused controversy in 2013, then at FC Basel, when reports circulated that he had requested not to travel to Israel to play against local team Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“The club told me if I don’t go I will be suspended and there will be lots of problems. So I went and thank God I scored,” he said in a 2014 interview.
At the end of the game he was also accused of changing his boots to avoid shaking hands with the players of the Israeli team before a preliminary round of Champions League, and opted for a “fist bump” rather than handshake during the second leg, prompting boos from Israeli attendees.
The Israeli minister’s comments come amid news that Saudi Arabia has also praised the Egyptian’s recent performance, and have decided to gift the footballer a piece of land in the holy city of Makkah.
According to deputy leader of the local municipality in Makkah, Fahd Al-Roqi, the decision to reward the footballer is to encourage positive role models such as Salah. “The gift is a celebration of the Egyptian star who is known for his high ethics and values.”