LOS ANGELES – On Tuesday evening, while Hollywood’s A-list celebrities were still basking in the glow of Sunday night’s Oscars, another international star was in town for the world premiere of his latest production.
His name is Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and the title of the television program is “Israel: The Royal Tour.” The one-hour show on PBS is hosted by travel journalist Peter Greenberg and in each episode a country’s head of state or prime minister serves as the tour guide.
In “The Royal Tour,” the usually serious and often combative Bibi shows a side of himself rarely seen in public.
“It’s 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,” Greenberg told Simone Wilson of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, who covered the shoot.
The two new buddies bicycle along the Jaffa beach promenade, jet ski on the Sea of Galilee, hike up to the Masada fortress, drive a dune buggy (with a hot-rodding Netanyahu at the wheel) and go rafting.
In less athletic moments, the two men drop in at a Tel Aviv nightclub, accompanied by Netanyahu’s wife Sara and son Yair, and inspect high-tech projects at the Technion in Haifa.
During the episode’s sole political segment, Greenberg questions Netanyahu on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the shoot occasionally interrupted by phone calls from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Greenberg insists that the episode 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 will 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 percent in Mexico, Peru and Jamaica after filming in those countries. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism anticipates that the film will lure an additional 200,000 tourists to Israel.
While in California, Netanyahu was scheduled to visit Silicon Valley and tour the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
Due to a strike by employees of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including the staff of the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles, Netanyahu’s visit has received practically no media attention.
“Israel: The Royal Tour” will premiere publicly on PBS stations in New York and Los Angeles on March 6, followed by a national rollout in other U.S. cities.