While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he always planned to return to Israel from his life in the United States, Harvey Levin said he’s not sure he believes him.
In an interview Netanyahu filmed with Levin for the Fox News show OBJECTified, the prime minister discussed the many different stages of his life, including the years he spent abroad.
“When you look at Netanyahu, he says he always planned on coming back to Israel – I’m not so sure,” Levin told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Thursday night. “I’ve read a lot of things and talked to a lot of people, I don’t know whether he would have stayed in the United States. He was building a life for himself in the United States and really embraced a lot of American values.”
Netanyahu moved to the US in 1972 to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He returned to Israel in October 1973 to serve in the Yom Kippur War in the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal). He took part in raids along the Suez Canal, and then led a commando attack deep inside Syrian territory.
'OBJECTified': One-on-one with Benjamin Netanyahu, October 6, 2017. (YouTube/Fox News)
He returned to MIT, graduated in 1976 and began working in Boston, shortly before his brother Lt.-Col. Yonatan Netanyahu was killed during the Entebbe rescue raid. He returned to live in Israel, then went back to the US as a diplomat, serving there from 1982 to 1988, when he was first elected to the Knesset.
Netanyahu also lived in Philadelphia as a teenager, while his father, Benzion Netanyahu, a professor and an activist in the Revisionist Zionism movement, taught there.
“He had no desire at all to become a politician until his brother died,” Levin said. “It was not only of no interest to him, he aggressively did not want that for himself. I think it’s interesting how a tragedy like that could reshape and recast somebody’s life.”
The full interview with Netanyahu will air on Fox News on Sunday night on the new show OBJECTified, created by Levin, the founder of celebrity gossip site TMZ.
Levin said the idea of the show “is to take a subject and understand their experiences from childhood on, and how those experiences shaped them into the people they are today.” The show gets its name by focusing on objects saved by the guests from the different periods of their life.
“In each chapter the person has to give me an object that represents that period of his or her life and it’s a way of getting into their story... it’s the gateway into their life,” he said.
Levin flew to Israel – his first-ever trip – in May and filmed the episode with Netanyahu in Jerusalem. This is the first season of the show, and Levin said the prime minister, whom he’d never met before, was on his “wish list” from the beginning.
“I’m fascinated by Israel, that you have a tiny country that has such an enormous global impact,” he said. “It’s so small, it’s so vulnerable, yet it’s survived, and there’s a lot about Israel that fascinates me – and [Netanyahu] has been kind of the glue for a long time.”
To land the prime minister for the show, Levin said he first flew to Washington to meet with Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, then met back in Los Angeles with Consul-General Sam Grundwerg, and later spoke with Netanyahu’s foreign media adviser David Keyes.
Levin categorically denied the report that US President Donald Trump helped him broker having Netanyahu on the show.
“That’s just total BS,” he said.
“It never ever happened. It’s a lie.”
The Prime Minister’s Office also denied the claim, which was reported by Entity magazine in May. Trump himself appeared in a one-off episode of the show that aired in November of last year.
While Levin said he did plenty of research before the interview, there were still moments that surprised him.
“I knew the high points of his life for sure, but some of the emotion that I got out of him surprised me a little bit,” he said.
“Also the forcefulness of his views on his children going into politics surprised me some.”
In a promo clip released ahead of the show, Netanyahu said he actively discourages his children from following in his footsteps
, though “I don’t know if it will help.” He said “maybe one” has shown interest in politics.
Levin said while he felt Netanyahu is “committed to being prime minister of Israel, at the same time, I think there’s a disdain for politics that came out and he aggressively doesn’t not want his children in the political game in Israel.”
The celebrity journalist also said Netanyahu discussed his wife, Sara, “and how he feels she’s been unfairly treated in the press.” She is expected to be imminently indicted on charges of fraud and abuse of state funds.
The prime minister himself is under investigation for charges of corruption, though Levin said that didn’t really come up in the interview.
Despite the intensity of many of their discussions, Levin said “there were light moments too” – including discussing who is the more famous alumnus of suburban Philadelphia’s Cheltenham High School, Netanyahu or baseball hall-of-famer Reggie Jackson.
Yonatan Netanyahu and Jackson were members of the class of ’64, while the prime minister graduated from the school in 1967.
Levin said the goal of the interview was to “understand not necessarily the things he’s done and how he feels about things, but the psychology of him. And that really is the point of it – why is he the guy he is? And I think you trace it back to very early with his father.”