Israeli and US flags flutter atop the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, in preparation for US President Donald Trump’s arrival.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Staff at Jerusalem’s legendary King David Hotel, which over the years has hosted every US president who visited Israel, breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday when US Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, entered the building.
Pence was scheduled to visit the nation’s capital in December, but postponed his trip to the Middle East in the wake of the furor resulting from President Donald Trump’s announcement that America recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump like so many of his predecessors also stayed at the King David during his historic visit to the country last year.
In fact, almost all visiting heads of state or government stay in Jerusalem and spend the major part of their visit in the capital.
While the King David has always been the hotel of choice for American presidents and those from most other countries, long before Trump’s controversial announcement, it was not always a given for US vice presidents to stay there, the hotel’s director of operations Sheldon Ritz told The Jerusalem Post
All that changed in 2008 with the visit of then-vice president Dick Cheney. Since then all presidents, vice presidents, and secretaries of state have stayed at the King David.
Last month, there was more or less a dress rehearsal for Pence’s visit. Everything was in place, said Ritz, “so there wasn’t much to do by way of preparation.”
But last week, with news of the proposed US government shutdown, the people at the King David were worried that Pence might delay his visit again.
Although traffic restrictions have been placed on King David Street, outside the hotel and the streets bordering it, the hotel has not been cleared of other guests like was done during Trump’s visit, Ritz said. Forty rooms have been allocated to guests who are not part of Pence’s entourage, and the three upper floors of the hotel have been allocated to Pence and his people.
In addition, some 200 people who are also traveling with Pence or are members US Embassy staff, have been allocated rooms at the Waldorf, David Citadel and Mamilla hotels, which are all in close proximity to the King David.
Other than a request that no alcohol be placed in his suite, Pence has not asked for any special services.
His itinerary indicates that he will not be spending much time in the hotel as he will be visiting the Prime Minister’s Office and the Knesset on Monday, and dining at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Monday night. Notices were also posted on apartment buildings in Balfour Road and Smolenskin Street, which intersect at the Prime Minister’s Residence, with information to the effect that no vehicle or pedestrian traffic will be permitted in either street during the Pence visit.
Pence will meet with President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday morning, after which he will tour Yad Vashem and from there will proceed to the Western Wall where he will be hosted by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. It is not known at this stage whether or not Pence intends to place a note in one of the crevices of the Wall.
He is scheduled to depart from Ben-Gurion Airport early on Tuesday evening.
Although Ritz would not release any details, it’s believed Pence will have a meet and greet event at the hotel where he will shake hands with some 300 US Embassy and Consulate staff.
Aside from tradition and history, the US administration prefers the King David Hotel for its high ranking officials because it’s considered to be the most secure hotel in the country, and the area reserved for heads of state or government and their deputies is bullet proof and bomb proof, and a special provision has been made to prevent the entry of poisonous gases.
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