Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jerusalem Residents Brace for Presidential Entourage

Middle East Features
Jerusalem residents brace for Clear Skies whirlwind

Jan 8, 2008, 14:31 GMT

Jerusalem - Even for Jerusalem residents accustomed to making their
way though their city amid high security, 'Operation Clear Skies,'
involving about one third of all available police manpower, is

But then it's nearly ten years since a serving US president last came to town.

President George W Bush was slated to arrive in Israel and head
straight for Jerusalem Wednesday afternoon for a three-day visit which
will also take him to the Palestinian areas.

It is the first presidential visit since Bill Clinton came for three
days in December 1998, and while there are no specific security
warnings in connection with the trip, Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld
said, no one is taking any chances.

Some 10,500 police personnel will be mobilized for the duration of the
presidential stay and in addition to the visible presence, undercover
personnel will also be employed.

Spot checks will be carried out on vehicles and the odd- and possibly
odd-looking - pedestrian, and sniffer dogs will be utilized to search
for hidden explosives.

Special robots have been positioned in sewers to ensure there are no
underground surprises, snipers will take up positions on strategic
rooftops and a balloon with a camera and night-vision equipment will
hover protectively over proceedings.

The security arrangements are costing an estimated 25,000 dollars for
each hour the president is in the country.

If the police are bracing for the visit, so too are Jerusalemites,
especially those who live or work near the King David Hotel, where the
presidential entourage will be staying.

While streets the president is expected to travel on will be closed in
accordance with his schedule, those surrounding the hotel will be
sealed off for 100 metres in each direction for the duration of the
visit and people who earn their living in the vicinity are less than
enamoured with the result.

A car-rental agency located next to the King David has said it will
shut up shop until after the president leaves.

'We have other branches in town, and it will be impossible for cars to
enter the street, so why even bother,' one employee told the Jerusalem
Post daily.

Other store owners are less certain. Most plan to remain open. They
know they cannot expect many customers, but are depending on members
of the presidential entourage to stop by, although given that they are
mainly upmarket outlets, they have perhaps not taken White House
salaries into account.

Someone else affected by the presidential visit is the head chef at
the King David Hotel, who had been looking forward to displaying his
culinary skills.

But a hotel employee told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the
president preferred relatively simple fare and had requested 'nothing
extravagant' during his stay, although he will accept the personalized
complimentary bathrobe already prepared for him.

The presidential party will be taking over the entire hotel, Israel's
most prestigious and luxurious and a Jerusalem landmark since it
opened in 1931.

Bush himself will occupy the King David's Royal suite, which, were he
a paying guest, would have set him back 2600 dollars a night.

Located on the top floor, it boasts, among other facilities, a living
room, separate bedroom and separate meeting or dining room seating 12
people, a jacuzzi bath, and a home cinema system.

It is the same suite occupied by his father when he visited, albeit
not as president and has also housed, at one time or another, Winston
Churchill, former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, former US presidents
Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the late King Hussein of Jordan, former
British premiers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and the Duke of

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will occupy the Presidential
suite, one floor below, and the rest of the six-storey hotel's 237
rooms will be taken by other members of the entourage.

Guests who were supposed to stay in the hotel while Bush is in town
have been forced to find alternative accommodation, something they did
with good grace, the hotel said.

If Jerusalem residents can take any comfort in the upcoming
presidential whirlwind about to hit them, it is that their city is
getting a clean-up ahead of its high-profile guest.

The city's sanitation department is working 'around the clock to clean
and maintain roads' along which the president will travel, the
Jerusalem municipality said.

It also noted that 'streetlights have been repaired.'

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