While glamorous Oscar winners were still recovering from Sunday night’s Hollywood victory parties, at the nearby Paramount studio lot another international star attended the world premiere of his latest film on Tuesday evening.
The star was none other than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and the title of the television film is Israel: The Royal Tour. Netanyahu and his wife Sara, along with some 500 guests, attended the premiere screening of the film expected to significantly increase tourism to Israel.
The one-hour show on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) was hosted by travel journalist Peter Greenberg and is part of a series where in each segment a country’s head of state or prime minister serves as the tour guide to that particular country.
“This film represents the beautiful Israel and the spirit of its people. These are the true faces of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said at the screening. “I happily joined this project in order to show the world the beautiful face of the State of Israel, the land of milk and honey.”
Netanyahu said tourism was an economic growth engine that Israel needed to cultivate.
“It is important to show the world Israel as a progressive and enlightened country with scenic vistas and vibrant nightlife, and as a state that respects all religions,” he said. “It was also important for me to show the deep link between the Land of Israel and the Jewish people; I emphasized this during my visits to Jerusalem and Masada.”
Greenberg told Simone Wilson of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, who covered the shoot in Israel, that the program is “like two guys on a road trip and one of them just happens to be the prime minister. And he and I are talking to each other, like you and I are talking to each other.”
The two new buddies bicycled along the Jaffa beach promenade, jet skied on the Sea of Galilee, hiked up Masada, drove a dune buggy (with a hot-rodding Netanyahu at the wheel) and went rafting.
In less athletic moments, the two men dropped in at a Tel Aviv nightclub, accompanied by Sara and the Netanyahus’ son Yair, and inspected hi-tech projects at the Technion.
During the film’s sole political segment, Greenberg questioned Netanyahu on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the shoot occasionally interrupted by phone calls from US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Greenberg insisted that his film is not a PR piece for Israel, and the prime minister’s staff was not allowed to review the final cut, Wilson reported.
Nevertheless, based on the show’s previous record, the tourism industry would be a major beneficiary.
Greenberg said that tourism went up almost 20 percent in Jordan after his “Royal Tour” with King Abdullah II aired, and 10% in Mexico, Peru and Jamaica after filming in those countries.
The Tourism Ministry anticipated that the film will bring an additional 200,000 tourists to Israel.
Not everyone, however, was pleased with the film.
Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli wrote on her Facebook page that it was a pity that with all of his “goodwill to introducing the world to Israel’s assets such as Masada, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu gave his support “to a movie that removed Judea and Samaria from Israel’s borders.” With the exception of Jerusalem, none of the segments were filmed beyond the Green Line.
Netanyahu was scheduled to fly to San Jose Wednesday for meetings with a number of hi-tech moguls in Silicon Valley, as well as with California Gov. Jerry Brown, before returning to Los Angeles Wednesday evening for a gala dinner with Hollywood stars hosted by Israeli- American film producer Arnon Milchan. He is scheduled to tour the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles before flying back to Israel Thursday.
Due to Foreign Ministry work sanctions, Netanyahu’s visit in Los Angeles received practically no media attention, since the consulate’s media officers are not working.
Also as a result of the work dispute, the responsibility for the logistics of the rest of Netanyahu’s trip was transferred from the Foreign Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Unfortunately, this morning, the Foreign Ministry’s labor union was forced to announce a major labor dispute relating to critical issues involving the future of the Foreign Service.
Israel: The Royal Tour will premiere publicly on PBS stations in New York and Los Angeles on Thursday, followed by a national rollout in other US cities.