- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2001

Security agencies in London, Paris and Jerusalem protect heads of state with a considerably smaller show of force than the Secret Service shows in Washington.
Cars and trucks are not kept nearly as far from the homes of these leaders as in Washington since the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.
Fewer officers are evident when the head of state moves to and from his home, in contrast to the regiments of Secret Service officers and long caravans of vans, trucks and cars that disrupt traffic when the president moves through the city.
Until 1989, anyone could walk the 100 yards from Whitehall Street in London's West End to 10 Downing Street, the residence of British prime ministers, a Georgian-style town house with a front door mere feet from the sidewalk.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher closed the area to the public, erecting massive iron gates at roughly the same time a series of litter bomb explosions, set by the Irish Republican Army, prompted police to remove the litter cans from London's Underground, the subway.
Nevertheless, the gates didn't stop the IRA from lobbing three mortars, one of which exploded, toward the house from a van parked on Whitehall Street in February 1991.
The area is quieter today, says one of the eight armed Metropolitan Police officers who guard Downing Street in two-hour rotations.
"If, say a truck did manage to plow through the gates, there's no way it would get past a 3-foot-high mechanized barrier that stands halfway between Whitehall Street and 10 Downing," the officer said.
Two policemen monitor the Whitehall Street entrance and another two are stationed at the barrier, where they routinely stop and inspect entering vehicles. Two more guard a pedestrian entrance at the other end of Downing Street, a dead-end bordering on the Horse Guards Parade area and road. The last two are at the door of the house.
The guards say they have, on occasion, led a group of Boy Scouts, children or an occasional tourist up to the entrance of No. 10 for photographs.
The story is similar in Jerusalem, where Israeli prime ministers reside in a 1930s-era home built by an Egyptian Jewish banker at the corner of two narrow residential streets, Balfour and Smolenskin streets, in the leafy Rehavia neighborhood.
The house is abutted on one side by a four-story apartment building and on the other by a music school, a proximity that reportedly drove former Prime Minister Golda Meir to distraction when off-key piano playing interrupted her afternoon naps.
Until recently there were no restrictions on cars driving or parking on the two streets as long as the cars were not immediately beside the prime minister's residence. Six months ago, however, the Security Services limited access by cars and trucks.
A sign was erected about 200 yards from the house at the entrance to Balfour Street barring entry to unauthorized vehicles, and an agent was posted to enforce the order. Residents of Balfour and Smolenskin streets can drive in by showing identity cards. Because of one-way streets, there is no other approach for cars and trucks.
Occasionally, as when Secretary of State Colin Powell called on outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak last week, the street is closed to pedestrians, but this is rare. Balfour Street is not a major thoroughfare so the effect on the public is minor.
Until a few years ago, the building appeared to be vulnerable to terrorist attack, protected only by a low wall that allowed reporters standing across the street to see when visiting dignitaries were about to leave. Four years ago, the wall was substantially raised and thickened and a stout new door was installed.
"I don't mind the restriction on cars," said Greer Fay Cashman, who lives three houses down from the prime minister. "What bothers me is the Shin Bet agents who poke through our garden and garbage cans every day."
There are no street closings at all around the Elysee Palace, the home and office of French presidents, because of lesser security concerns and the tall, thick walls surrounding the building.
"There are advantages in not being a superpower, and security is one of them," said a palace official. "Of course security is very important, but we have reasons not to be overly concerned. The Elysee is a much less attractive target than the White House."
The palace lies in the heart of Paris with its main entrance on the narrow but busy Rue du Faubourg St. Honore, lined with expensive shops and apartment blocks. The Interior Ministry is a few steps away, on the Place Beauvau.
The only visible signs of protection are members of the Paris police force patrolling the sidewalks near the main entrance, along the Avenue de Marigny on its western side and the Avenue Gabriel along the southern wall.
Bernard Emie, who once served on the palace staff, described the president's residence as "virtually impregnable," mainly because of its location and architecture.
However traffic is barred from the Rue de l'Elysee, a narrow street between the Rue du Faubourg St. Honore and Avenue Gabriel along the palace's eastern side, where a number of French officials have their offices. Only cars with special passes are permitted to enter.
The palace itself has a colorful history. It was initially built by King Louis XV for his mistress, born Jeanne Antoinette Poisson but later ennobled as Marquise de Pompadour.
For 20 years, according to one historian, "she swayed the policy of the state and lavished its treasury on her own ambitions. She retained the king's favor by countenancing his debaucheries."

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