Benjamin Netanyahu is a candidate in a league of his own, and he wants Israelis to remember that. Over the weekend, the prime minister’s Likud party draped the high-rise building that houses its Tel Aviv headquarters with banners bearing the slogan: “Netanyahu: in another league.” Each of the massive signs present Netanyahu alongside another nation’s leader: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Narendra Modi. The posters launched alongside a video ad featuring news clips of Netanyahu rubbing elbows with his American, Russian, and Indian counterparts. The ads and Netanyahu’s choice of foreign friends to feature in them say a lot about how the prime minister understands his own leadership.

Netanyahu constantly reinforces two ideas in parallel: Israel has never fared better internationally, yet, at the same time, internal and external enemies also pose a constant and existential threat to Israel. It is not so different from President Trump’s claim to represent a majority of Americans while operating in perpetual siege mode, casting broad swaths of the news media, entertainment industry, and the professional government bureaucracy as hostile. Putin also works according to this line of reason, albeit with far more severe consequences for his constituents. On the one hand, Putin supposedly restored the respect and credibility Russians lost when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991. But Russia is also so deeply imperiled that violent force and arbitrary arrest are necessary to subdue rivals, including over a thousand peaceful demonstrators this past weekend.

At first glance, these two modes of thinking might seem contradictory. If Israel is at its diplomatic zenith, then existential jeopardy ought to feel like a remote prospect. Yet as the base sees it, there is no cognitive dissonance here. Increasingly in Israel, the success of the nation is bound up in the success of the leader. Things are good, but only so long as Netanyahu remains at the helm. Critics across the spectrum, from journalists to the New Israel Fund to Kachol Lavan, are spun as obstacles to Netanyahu and to Israeli society writ large.

This style has helped Netanyahu to construct a personal brand. In 2006, Labor leader Amir Peretz was able to siphon off support from right-wing strongholds in Israel’s south. It’s not so clear he or any other candidate can replicate that feat today, not because right-wing voters feel closer to Likud, but because they’ve developed a sense of personal loyalty toward Netanyahu. This is something most other parties in Israel have failed to cultivate among their own bases. Thus, a ballot cast for Kachol Lavan is more a vote against Prime Minister Netanyahu than it is an endorsement of Benny Gantz.

It’s also worth addressing Netanyahu’s decision to campaign on the images of foreign leaders in the first place. Highlighting Bibi’s personal relationships with world leaders makes him seem especially important. While Netanyahu’s opponents concern themselves with menial domestic affairs like pending indictments against the prime minister, Netanyahu is shuttling between Washington, Moscow, and New Delhi, presumably handling more meaningful issues. Israel certainly punches above its weight class in a number of departments, but it is still a small country.

Netanyahu has held the premiership for ten years uninterrupted. He was also minister of foreign affairs up until a few weeks ago. Accordingly he has a vast library of photo-ops with dignitaries and leaders to draw from in showing off his diplomatic credentials. But the decision to showcase the leaders of the world’s sole superpower and Israel’s closest ally, the United States, as well as major players like Russia, and India, ascribes an outsized status to Netanyahu, and by extension, all of Israel. It would not be so far-fetched if China’s Xi Xinping were to join this special league. Ultimately, this makes Israelis feel big and respected.

Still, Netanyahu could also not be happier that his American, Russian, and Indian counterparts happen to be Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Narendra Modi.

Trump, is, of course, Netanyahu’s dream come true. The Israeli prime minister and American president play off each other for their own respective benefit. Netanyahu has adapted his own attacks on the free press and the political left to fit the Trump model, right down to the prime minister’s use of the term “fake news” (transliterated as פייק ניוז, as opposed to the Hebrew hadashot mizuyafot).

The Trump White House has handed Israel repeated political gifts: the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, and an altogether punitive approach to the Palestinians. These end up looking like Netanyahu’s personal accomplishments simply because they happened while he was in office (this is by design). And Trump’s subordinates, including John Bolton, David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and Jared Kushner, have created a permissive environment for the typically cautious prime minister to do whatever he pleases on questions like West Bank annexation.

Donald Trump is undoubtedly Netanyahu’s ideal American president. But before there was Trump, there was Barack Obama, whose shadow Netanyahu is still chasing. Vladimir Putin made life exceedingly difficult for Obama, flaunting the Americans in Ukraine and Syria, courting far-right elements in Europe, and finally interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Putin’s apparent ability to operate outside American-imposed rules is something Netanyahu respects, even if that often entails headaches for Israel. After all, the ongoing Syria intervention puts Moscow on the same side as Hezbollah and Iran, and the same Putin who now stars in a Likud campaign ad also makes frequent appearances alongside Hasan Nasrallah, Bashar al Assad, and the Ayatollah Khameinei in pro-regime propaganda banners. However, it’s Putin’s style, not his substance, that Netanyahu cares about: at the very least, ties between Netanyahu and Putin look superficially positive. There’s also Putin’s appeal with some older Russian-speaking Israeli voters, whom Netanyahu would like to steer as far as possible from Avigdor Liberman, traditionally Israel’s “Russian candidate.” Here, it should be noted, that Netanyahu’s logic is not necessarily airtight: some Russian-Israeli activists called for a protest outside Likud headquarters because of the Putin poster.

Lastly, there is Narendra Modi. While Russia provides only the facade of a strategic alternative for Israel, India may actually represent one. India is a country that Netanyahu “flipped” from enemy to ally. During the Cold War, New Delhi helped found the Non-Aligned Movement, a coalition of developing nations, which, among other things, has consistently adopted anti-Israel positions. At the time, Indian passports were stamped with a warning forbidding the holder from visiting Israel and apartheid South Africa. Yet today, Israel is widely popular in the world’s second-most populous country. India is also the single highest buyer of Israeli arms, and Israel is the second largest source of weapons imports for India after Russia. While these military ties date back well before Netanyahu’s current time in office, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel in 2017, and so Bibi is keen to present himself as the man who opened India to Israel. Modi is also a nationalist, a populist, and has presided over rising anti-Muslim sentiment both in his capacity as prime minister and has governor of the state of Gujarat.

Israeli prime ministers on the right and left, like the leaders of many other countries, have cut deals with unsavory characters before, including some with far worse records than Trump, Modi, and even Putin. But no Israeli leader ever bragged about those relationships as an election ploy. True, whether or not the ties are publicized, the results are the same for the victims of the dictators and would-be authoritarians Israel has backed up. Yet the difference in this case is that Netanyahu’s league is now a model for the prime minister to emulate at home. Bibi Netanyahu is no Vladimir Putin, but he also has no compunctions about casting the Russian strongman in a positive light. And as the prime minister echoes his counterparts in tone, changes in actual policy may follow in short order.