Traffic nightmare: Public urged to avoid King David area

More than 10,000 police officers will be out on the streets of Jerusalem during the three-day visit.

King David 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
King David 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Jerusalem police began closing city streets early Wednesday ahead of US President George W. Bush's visit, snarling traffic throughout central Jerusalem. More than 10,000 police officers will be out on the streets of Jerusalem during the three-day visit, which begins at midday, in one of the largest security operations in the city in years. Jerusalem Police chief Aharon Franco reiterated Tuesday that police had received no security alerts regarding attacks on Bush during the visit. Still, police were taking no chances and were planning on closing central Jerusalem streets an hour and a half before Bush's entourage was expected to pass and towing cars parked on a dozen city streets along the route. Uniformed police officers and undercover agents will join US and Israeli secret service agents in the security operation, having trained for various scenarios. In addition, the main highway from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Jerusalem will be closed for about an hour as Bush's entourage heads to the capital shortly after noon. Bush himself will travel to Jerusalem by helicopter after he lands in the country at 11:55 a.m. He will meet with President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi in the afternoon and will then be hosted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at his official residence. On Thursday, Bush will travel to the West Bank for meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and will then return to Jerusalem for dinner with Olmert. The US president will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum on Friday morning before flying to the North to visit Christian holy sites, including Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes. The Jerusalem Police chief urged city residents to avoid the central Jerusalem areas where Bush will be staying for the next three days, adding that police were trying to "reduce to a minimum" the expected inconvenience and traffic jams for the city's 750,000 residents. He noted that thousands of residents had called the police hotline (see box) that provides information on the planned traffic changes, during its first day of operation on Tuesday. The security operation for Bush's visit - his first as president - is the largest in the city since the landmark 2000 trip of Pope John Paul II.