Residents of the California coastal town of Malibu were up in arms last week as security arrangements for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu closed roads and highways, causing a huge traffic backup, local reports said. Netanyahu, who was visiting the mansion of Israeli film producer Arnon Milchan, was the reason the Secret Service shut down roads a week ago Wednesday, causing a several hour traffic jam.
Speaking Monday, Malibu Councilman John Sibert said that hundreds of residents had contacted him complaining. Two of the three lanes on the Pacific Coast Highway, the main commuting thoroughfare, were closed down in the area near Milchan's mansion. “This was just unconscionable that this kind of thing was done at rush hour on PCH and shutting down two lanes,” Sibert told local media.
Malibu is the home of many of the biggest stars of the entertainment world. The exclusive community, on a picturesque portion of the California coast, is often called “Billionaire's Beach” because of the preponderance of wealthy people in the community.
City Manager Jim Thorsen told The Malibu Times that the fault lies with “the Secret Service, or Israelis, or whoever decided they needed to block two lanes of traffic." He said he had “worked closely” with the Secret Service and California Highway Patrol to ensure that traffic would not pile up. The plans he developed with them ensured that the impact on traffic would be minimal, Thorsen said.
But that estimate was based on the original plan. Instead, he said, whoever was in charge “went to a new plan which we weren’t aware of, local sheriffs wasn’t aware of,” and as local officials were unprepared for the changes, a major traffic jam immediately evolved, beginning at about 6 PM, before Netanyahu was scheduled to arrive, and continuing until nearly midnight.
Part of the problem, said local officials, was that Milchan’s residence faced the PCH, and federal officials in charge of security stopped trucks and vans that were set to drive by the mansion, inspecting them with bomb sniffing dogs. According to a California Highway Patrol spokesperson, the operation was directed by the Secret Service.
According to Secret Service Special Agent Joe Beaty, the operation was planned in advance and was necessary, given the circumstances. “We try to make as little a footprint on a community as possible,” Beaty told the Times. “...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.”