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Town of Malibu miffed at Netanyahu

PM attended an upscale party last week, and the security measures jammed up traffic for hours, causing uproar

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Hollywood actor James Caan, seen at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Hollywood actor James Caan, seen at an event held at the home of producer Arnon Milchan. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Hollywood royalty may have rubbed elbows with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Malibu’s Billionaire’s Beach last Wednesday night, but the traffic caused by his visit ruffled plenty of feathers in the nice, quiet little beach community.

City officials and residents were infuriated with federal authorities for blocking two eastbound lanes of the Pacific Coast Highway for more than nine hours. All vehicles were diverted to a single median lane, the Malibu Times reported.

“This was just unconscionable that this kind of thing was done at rush hour on PCH and shutting down two lanes,” Councilman John Sibert said Monday. Numerous phone calls and emails complaining about the lack of public awareness were submitted to city council members.

Netanyahu was in Malibu to attend a private soiree at the home of Israeli film producer and multi-billionaire Arnon Milchan, a former Israeli intelligence operative in the 1980s who has produced successful films like “Fight Club,” “Pretty Woman” and “LA Confidential.” Netanyahu’s Facebook page posted several photos of the prime minister and his wife, Sara, socializing with Hollywood celebrities like Barbra Streisand, Keanu Reeves, James Caan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Hudson at the party.

The only public notice issued before Netanyahu paid a visit to Malibu came in the 48 hours leading up to his motorcade when the Secret Service said to expect “rolling closures” along Pacific Coast Highway from the 10 freeway to Malibu Canyon Road between 6:30 and 11 p.m. on Wednesday.

According to City Manager Jim Thorsen, the City of Malibu worked closely with the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department, the Secret Service and the California Highway Patrol to create an action plan, and the lane blockages were not originally on the agenda.

“Somewhere along [on Wednesday]… somebody made a decision, whether that was the Secret Service or Israelis or whoever, decided they needed to block two lanes of traffic,” Thorsen told The Malibu Times. “They went to a new plan which we weren’t aware of, local sheriffs wasn’t aware of.”

However, Secret Service Special Agent Joe Beaty of the Los Angeles field office disagreed.

“I’m not going to give you a time frame but it wasn’t planned at the last minute,” Beaty told the paper.

According to Beaty, federal authorities try to interfere as little as possible with the everyday flow of traffic, but when international figures like Netanyahu are in town, safety trumps all.

“We try to make as little a footprint on a community as possible,” Beaty said. “Unfortunately, you’re talking about the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s probably not the most ideal place, but we have to work with what we have.”

The Secret Service is required to protect all heads of state visiting the US, he added

Nevertheless, some still questioned why the US government went to such extreme lengths to escort Netanyahu to a private, high-profile event.

“I don’t know of a bigger person in this world who has a bigger bull’s-eye than [Netanyahu] does,” Malibu Mayor Joan House said Monday. “But, to me, I looked at it like a vanity party. This party could have been held in a community that had more than one major road.”

Netanyahu’s US trip included several stops: He met with US President Barack Obama and addressed the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC; later, he unveiled a TV tourism program in Hollywood, met with high-tech leaders, and signed a pro-business agreement with California Gov. Jerry Brown in Silicon Valley before returning to Southern California for Milchan’s event.

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