14,000 policemen to secure US president's visit to J'lem

Jerusalemites can expect major traffic jams throughout city, as police shut central thoroughfares.

Sniper king david 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Sniper king david 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
In one of the largest security operations in years, 14,000 Israeli police officers will man the streets of Jerusalem, safeguarding US President George Bush and his entourage for their three day visit beginning Wednesday, police have said. The number of police to be deployed surpasses the 10,000 officers who safeguarded Bush's January visit, his first as president, according to Jerusalem District Police Cmdr. Aharon Franco. Police have not received security threats against Bush, Franco said. Jerusalemites can expect major traffic jams throughout the city, as police close off central Jerusalem thoroughfares during the visit, dubbed by police "Operation Clear Skies 2." In an effort to alleviate traffic issues, Bush will arrive in Jerusalem by helicopter. He'll land at the the city's Givat Ram stadium, before heading to Jerusalem's landmark King David Hotel, his residence for the duration of his trip. The main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway will be closed at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday as the president's entourage makes its way to the city, Franco said. Jerusalem's King David Street will be closed for the duration of the visit, while nearby city roads will be periodically closed when Bush leaves his hotel. Parking cars on certain streets near the hotel will be prohibited during the visit and will result in vehicle tows. "We are trying to minimize as much as possible the damage done to the public," Franco said. Police plan to close major streets for shorter periods of time than they did during Bush's previous visit, he said, citing "lessons learned." A police hotline, 1-700-50-20-30, offering residents information about street closures, opened on Monday. Franco said the police's major concern was terrorist threats, noting that a closure of the West Bank that went into force ahead of Independence Day has been extended until Saturday night. He said the police will be out in force in east Jerusalem on Thursday as Palestinians mark the Nakba, or catastrophe, on the Gregorian date of Israel's 60th Independence Day. Bush will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres during his visit, and attend an international conference hosted by Peres at the International Convention Center. Thursday morning, Bush will head to Masada, before returning to Jerusalem to address a special session of the Knesset at mid-day. On Friday, he'll meet with youth at the city's Bible Lands Museum, before leaving the country at 11:00 a.m. Bush won't visit the West Bank during his trip, but will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm e-Sheikh after his trip to Israel. Meanwhile, First Lady Laura Bush, who is accompanying her husband on his trip, will visit the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday, and is scheduled to visit the Western Wall and tour the Western Wall tunnels while her husband goes to his meetings, police said.