Jewish Journal

As Netanyahu arrives in L.A. for show premiere, Israeli consulate’s absence is felt

by Jared Sichel

Posted on Mar. 5, 2014 at 9:37 am

Standing beside his wife, Sarah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks Mar. 4 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

Standing beside his wife, Sarah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks Mar. 4 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

On the morning that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due in Los Angeles for the beginning of a three-day trip to California, Israel's Foreign Ministry labor union went on strike to protest its wages, shifting management of Netanyahu’s trip, at the last minute, from the local consulate to the Prime Minister’s office.

But that didn’t stop the Israeli leader from attending the March 4 premiere of “Israel: The Royal Tour,” the latest in the PBS television series hosted by CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg, in which heads of state give Greenberg a tour of their country.

The premiere was held at Paramount Studios and was hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

In the hour-long show, Netanyahu gives Greenberg and viewers a Prime Minster’s view of some of Israel’s most treasured sites—including Masada, the Red Sea, and Tel Aviv; or, more accurately, Tel Aviv’s hopping nightlife.

Entering a room filled with philanthropists and stars—including football commentator Al Michaels, former CNN host Larry King, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft—Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and his son Yair, were greeted with a loud applause before the Prime Minister spoke for a few minutes.

The Prime Minister opened by joking, “Is this the Oscars?”

He then spoke about why he agreed to do the film. "I think it shows you sides of Israel that need to be shown," he said. Israel's tourism ministry thinks it will increase travel to the Holy Land.

[Related: On a bike, on a jet ski, climbing Masada —
the sporty Bibi gets his TV special

Netanyahu also highlighted the most surprising, and painful scene, shot in June 2012.

“I tore my Achilles heel playing soccer in a game between Jewish kids and Arab kids,” Netanyahu said, referring to a moment captured in the show, in which Netanyahu is shooting a penalty kick in a soccer match, with Greenberg as the goalie.

After following through on the kick, Netanyahu stumbled forward in pain.

“Are you OK?” Greenberg asked the Prime Minister as he hobbled over to him in pain.

“Something happened,” Netanyahu responded. “Something snapped. I heard it snap.”

That injury cut Greenberg’s trip, and the filming, short. It was almost another year until he could return to Israel to finish shooting footage.

CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg discusses "Israel: The Royal Tour" before the show's premiere Mar. 4 in Los Angeles.

Netanyahu also let the crowd in on an almost unheard of bit of information—his office agreed to give Greenberg full editorial control over the final product.

“I haven’t seen the film,” Netanyahu admitted, before ending his remarks and walking into the screening theater with the crowd following behind him.

Although the Foreign Ministry’s strike is not expected to throw a wrench into Netanyahu’s California plans, the sudden bow out from the local consulate did confuse some of the evening’s arrangements, which were supposed to include a press screening of the film—but didn’t.

In an email Tuesday from David Siegel, Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles wrote, “The Foreign Ministry’s labor union was forced to announce a major labor dispute relating to critical issues involving the future of Israel’s Foreign Service.”

Among other things, the strike means that Israeli consulates around the world will suspend services to visiting Israeli dignitaries and most consular services to Israelis abroad

Netanyahu will be in California until Thursday, traveling north on March 5 to meet with Silicon Valley executives and Gov. Jerry Brown before returning to Los Angeles for his final leg on March 6.

It is the first time since 2006 that a sitting Israeli Prime Minister has visited California.

Before the event, the Journal caught up with Peter Greenberg, who said that despite having been to Israel dozens of times since he began reporting in 1970, touring the country with Netanyahu made this trip entirely different.

“You are seeing the country through the Prime Minister’s eyes and places that are important to him and experiences that are important to him,” Greenberg said, adding that his time on Masada with Netanyahu was his favorite part of the trip.

“He is such an eloquent storyteller and he actually, really, is a historian.”

“Israel: The Royal Tour” will premiere on Thursday, March 6 at 7 p.m. on PBS SoCal

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