While much has already been disclosed about the itinerary of US President Joe Biden from the time that he arrives in Israel until he leaves, little is being reported about where he will lay his head at night or drink his freshly squeezed orange juice in the morning.
More than 200 foreign journalists have already registered with Israel’s Government Press Office, which will open a special press center to serve the needs of the international media.
POTUS is staying in what is reputed to be the safest hotel not only in Jerusalem but in Israel – the legendary King David Hotel, where former presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George Bush (father and son), Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump stayed before him.
Not that Biden is a stranger to the King David. He has checked in there before in his previous capacities during his many visits to Israel. But this is his first visit as president, and he will find certain familiarities, and certain other things that are new to him. During the COVID-19 crisis, the hotel went through a major renovation process that would have been difficult under normal circumstances.
In the past, the general manager and operations manager of the hotel were very pleased to talk about what was being prepared for visiting heads of state or government, but when a Jerusalem Post reporter called general manager Tamir Kobrin to ask about preparations for the Biden visit, she was told that the US Embassy had placed a moratorium on any information about it.
Despite the renovations, things have not changed too much since former President Donald Trump came to Jerusalem in May 2018 for the ceremonial transfer of the US embassy to Israel’s capital.
The king-sized bed, which has actually been slept in by royalty, is still there – probably with a change of mattress. The panoramic view of the Old City is likewise still there. The luxury suite can be compared to a large Israeli apartment, with every possible convenience.
King David Street outside the hotel will be sealed off to traffic other than official cars and police escorts. Bus routes have already been diverted from King David and Agron streets, and security will be as tight as a drum – regardless of the fact that Israel suffers a serious shortage of police officers. Police in vast numbers will be deployed along all the routes on which POTUS will travel, and of course he will have his own American security detail.
When Trump was about to come to Jerusalem, Sheldon Ritz – who was King’s David’s operations manager at the time, and is today the general manager of the Vert Hotel on the other side of town at the entrance to the city – told NBC News as reported by Mark Moore of The New York Post that the King David is impervious to bullets, bombs and poison gas and can even withstand the collapse of the entire building. “The presidential suites have independent air conditioning in case of a gas attack and are built to withstand an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade],” Ritz said.
He mentioned that there are, in fact, three presidential suites, the average price of which at the time was around $5,700 per night, and that the president would have his own private elevator.
He also let slip that despite all the safety factors, the US team brought bullet-proof glass to place in front of the windows.
Presumably, that will again be the case.
The sad thing is that Biden has such an intensive schedule, that he will barely have time to spend in the Presidential Suite, much less enjoy it.
But what the hell; the American and the Israeli taxpayers are footing the bill.
What price, glory.