REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: What happens when Netanyahu drops everything to return to Israel?

It’s a sharp reminder that when one travels with the prime minister, one’s time is not one’s own.

November 12, 2018 11:36
2 minute read.
Macron and Netanyahu

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron welcome Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the Elysee Palace as part of the commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War, in Paris, France, November 11, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/PHILIPPE WOJAZER)


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When the prime minister drops everything to return to Israel, if you happen to be traveling with him, so do you.

It’s also a sharp reminder that when one travels with the prime minister, one’s time is not one’s own.
I could so easily have been in the shower or slept through the warning messages.

Not that the phone rang while I sat working in a Paris hotel room as the city slowly tucked itself to sleep to the pitter-patter of late night rain drops.

If I hadn’t been glued to the erupting Gaza violence so many thousands of miles away, I might not have seen the 10:36 WhatsApp message from the Prime Minister’s Office.

”In light of the security situation in the South, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to cut short his visit to Paris and will return tonight to Israel,” the message stated.

It was followed by another text at 10:38 p.m: “The flight takes off at 3 a.m. Come no later than 11:30 p.m. to the prime minister’s hotel with hand luggage. We leave for the airport at 2 a.m.”

Almost like people fleeing a burning house or a hurricane, the dozen or so reporters traveling with Netanyahu for his two-day trip to Paris had only 15 minutes to get to the lobby and check out, so they could make the kilometer-long trip to the hotel where the premier was staying.

“Transportation?” asked one reporter at 10:43 p.m.,who was unsure how we would get through the Paris streets so quickly.

“On the way to you. The vehicles will wait downstairs for 15 minutes,” was the reply.

Just prior to the messages, I had placed a pot of tea and a plate of fruit by the bedside and had imagined the moment when I could crawl under the covers.

The next moment, I was quickly pushing clothing into a bag and heading for the lobby. Some reporters really had gone to bed for the night and had to be woken up by concierge. One was at dinner with the phone off.

For the next two hours, we became vagabonds of sorts.

We traveled to the prime minister’s hotel, to hand over our passports and check in the luggage. Then back to our hotel, with the understanding that we might have another hour or two in the rooms.

Half an hour later we were called back to the prime minister’s hotel, sent to the lobby, then outside to wait for a van to the airport, then up to the fourth floor for another check-in and finally back to the lobby.

Heads of state do not travel at the same speed as regular civilians. Nor do they stand in line at airports to hand in documents. Bureaucracy is handled by the staff and a convoy of cars leaves from a hotel, straight to the plane, including the staff and of course the journalists covering the trip.
By 2 a.m. we boarded a van that would be part of the convoy heading out of Paris, still in the rain, hours after arrival.

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