- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008


JERUSALEM — Unless President Bush can prod the Israelis and Palestinians to a peace deal this week, his sole presidential visit to the Holy Land might be best remembered for the mother of all traffic jams.

American cargo planes have arrived for days at Ben Gurion International Airport, delivering the fleet of 25 armored vehicles and the squadron of helicopters that will ferry the presidential party around on its 48-hour visit.

With security paramount, eight truckloads of specially encrypted computers and communication equipment also arrived, by air freight, at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where Mr. Bush will stay. There is little risk of them being delivered to the wrong guest, as all 237 rooms at the hotel have been booked by the White House.

The view from his suite on the sixth floor of the hotel will offer Mr. Bush some insight into the issues bedeviling the region.

In front of him will lie the crenellated walls, ancient domes and timeless towers of Jerusalem’s Old City. But in the distance is the Mount of Olives, where Jewish hard-liners announced yesterday their intention to build new homes for Israelis on land traditionally claimed as Palestinian.

Jerusalem’s population of 740,000 has spent the last few days bracing itself for days of snarled traffic and commuting chaos. Any car left on any city center road to be used by Mr. Bush will be towed. Residents of those streets will be allowed to move on foot only after screening by the Shin Bet security service.

“Presidential Mess” was the banner headline on a Ma’ariv newspaper report saying the country’s main highway will be closed along its entire length while the presidential caravan passes — even though Mr. Bush himself will be in a helicopter.

His security detail has deemed road travel too dangerous, despite the deployment of 10,500 Israeli policemen, border guards and other security personnel.

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