VP’s entourage opts for David Citadel

King David refused to clear out entire hotel for Biden.

By DOV PREMINGER
March 8, 2010 02:16
3 minute read.
VP’s entourage opts for David Citadel

David Citadel Hotel 88. (photo credit: )

US Vice President Joe Biden’s delegation to Israel Monday will occupy over 200 hotel rooms at the David Citadel Hotel, one of the premier hotels in Jerusalem. The vice president’s staff approached the King David Hotel as well, but was rebuffed when he asked for the entire 240-room hotel.

“It was a decision by the owners of the hotel that for the Vice President, we can’t empty the hotel completely,” said Sheldon Ritz, head of official delegations for the King David Hotel. “We offered 120 rooms – half the hotel.”

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Only for a sitting American president is the King David willing to empty the hotel. During former US president George W. Bush’s two visits in 2008, he took up the whole hotel and more. The whole entourage occupied some 900 rooms, including the entirety of the King David. After the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush, for security reasons, made a practice of booking an entire hotel wherever he stayed.

Ritz said that “Vice President Biden wanted the whole hotel. When French President [Nicolas] Sarkozy came in 2008, he wanted the whole hotel. But only for an American president will they empty all the rooms.”

A source told The Jerusalem Post that Biden’s visit to the David Citadel may take up some 270 of the hotel’s 360 rooms.

Large block-out bookings for visiting VIP’s are common in Jerusalem. In particular, three hotels – the King David, the David Citadel, and the Inbal – vie for many of the foreign delegation guests in Israel’s capital. Sheldon Ritz of the King David notes that VIP’s from foreign countries typically take anywhere from 20-200 rooms.

According to the King David, a typical foreign delegation at their hotel might book anywhere from a scant 20 hotel rooms, as did Nancy Pelosi in her 2008 visit, to a whopping 200 rooms in the case of Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy. Some other room counts include a visit by the president of Bulgaria: 50 rooms; the prime minister of Denmark: 30 rooms; and President Sarkozy of France: 140 rooms. During Barack Obama’s visit to Israel during his presidential campaign, he used 70 rooms at the King David.

The Inbal Hotel reports similar statistics for VIP visits to its property. Sources from the hotel say Condoleezza Rice occupied between 50-70 rooms during her visit, and when former US president Bill Clinton stayed at the hotel, he took all 290 rooms. The Inbal Hotel is currently close to 100 percent occupied for the visit of American pastor John Hagee.

Who fills the rooms?

“White House communications [staff] take up a lot of room,” says Ritz. “Journalists, State Department officials, American security. Shin Bet agents also [stay] and provide protection. Our ambassador, their ambassador.”

Ritz also says Americans tend to prefer single-occupancy rooms for their delegations. “Anything with the Americans, they never double up rooms. Always single occupancy rooms. Not even the drivers double up into one room.”

The large number of rooms required can sometimes cause problems for other guests of the hotel. The Post spoke with Rabbi Menachem Rapoport of Wisconsin, who is visiting with a group from his community. “[Our] trip was planned for a year, for about 20 people from the community. We had planned to spend five nights in Jerusalem. We received a call a couple of weeks ago, and we had no choice but to shorten our stay.

“What kind of message does this send? Americans are coming to visit Israel: ‘Sorry but you can’t stay here, I’m coming now.’”

The group ended up staying at the Citadel, but leaving earlier than planned.

Louis Chamoy, one of the group’s leaders, suggested that if the American Embassy were moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Vice President would have a place to stay without disrupting anyone.

Boaz Dorfman, operations manager at the David Citadel, responded that “we took care of all our guests. We did not turn anyone out. Either they stayed here, or at the Manilla Hotel [also owned by the David Citadel].”

The David Citadel declined to provide further details regarding Vice President Biden’s visit.


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