Biden's visit: Not much enthusiasm in Jerusalem for president's trip

Rony Eichner: “I don’t think it’s necessary to close all the streets for all the time they’re closing them; maybe for when the president is coming through, and that’s it.”

 The US and Israeli flags are screened on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City as a welcoming to US president Joe Biden , on July 13, 2022 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
The US and Israeli flags are screened on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City as a welcoming to US president Joe Biden , on July 13, 2022
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

Between frustration over his politics and the logistical nightmare his visit is causing, US President Joe Biden’s arrival in Israel was a divisive topic in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Biden’s trip resulted in the closure of several main roads throughout Jerusalem as well as the deployment of 16,000 police officers. As such, commuters were forced to take alternate routes to get around the city, adding a significant amount of time to their daily commutes.

“What has he done for the State of Israel that he thinks he needs to come?”

Anonymous Jerusalemite

A man in his mid-50s who wished to remain anonymous described Biden as a fool and said many of the people he knows view the president the same way.

“What has he done for the State of Israel that he thinks he needs to come?” he asked rhetorically.

With respect to the road closures and massive police deployment, the man said Biden should have “stayed in his basement.” However, he added, security measures would be the same for any visiting head of state and were therefore not objectionable.

Yehiel, raised in Israel by an American mother, had a different view.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomes US President Joe Biden as he lands for a three-day visit, at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel, July 13, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomes US President Joe Biden as he lands for a three-day visit, at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel, July 13, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

Biden's visit is "not worth it"

“If something gets to the point where it requires 16,000 police officers, it’s not worth it,” he said. This is especially true for Biden’s visit, according to Yehiel, because the president “is a poser at best. His visit is just for show. I don’t think there’s much good that he can do for Israel.”

Rony Eichner, an immigrant from Mexico, said he doesn’t really have a position on Biden but that “it’s okay for the president of the United States to come to Israel to have a diplomatic relationship” with America’s ally in the Middle East.

Eichner added that while he does not believe the president supports Israel, it is crucial for the country to maintain its connection with the US.

“I don’t like Biden that much, I think he’s very stupid. I think it’s not fair that he’s blocking half of Jerusalem. If someone likes our country, I think it’s fair, [or] if they were coming to do good things here, but not someone who doesn’t like us.”

Jerusalemite

“It’s important to keep this connection for future problematic situations,” he said. “The connection allows the two countries to talk to each other, and helps Israel negotiate with other countries.”

Nevertheless, Eichner viewed the road closures as excessive.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to close all the streets for all the time they’re closing them, maybe for when the president is coming through, and that’s it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to close them for the whole day.”

RAMIT, A JERUSALEM resident, said he does not believe that Biden is very good or very bad for Israel, but that former president Donald Trump received far more support from Israelis.

“Trump was way more popular than Biden [in Israel], from my perspective,” he said. “Trump speaks much louder about his support for Israel than Biden and takes more action for Israel, like the Abraham Accords.”

MOSHE SAMETZ, another immigrant from Mexico, said although he did not know much about Biden in general nor about his support for Israel, the itinerary changes he was forced to make as a program counselor were frustrating.

“We’re in a program as madrichim [counselors], and we’ve had to change a lot of things from our program because he’s coming to Yad Vashem and other places we were supposed to go,” Sametz said.

Ramit said disruptions to city life in Jerusalem were quite frequent, which creates issues for locals.

“In Jerusalem, there’s a feeling that the city closes almost on a weekly basis for some kind of reason, so it’s hard for people who stay here to run their lives normally,” he said.

Another young man bluntly said: “I don’t like Biden that much. I think he’s very stupid. I think it’s not fair that he’s blocking half of Jerusalem. If someone likes our country, I think it’s fair [to do that] if they were coming to do good things here, but not someone who doesn’t like us.”

Two teenagers wearing bright yellow vests, Sarah and Yuval, were directing traffic outside the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where Biden was due to arrive soon. A few hours before Biden’s expected arrival, the area around the hotel was strangely quiet. The entrance to the historic hotel was mostly empty, and barricades lined King David Street.

“Biden’s visit is also good because it gave us jobs,” Yuval said. “Our job is to clear the streets so that no one will park here.”

They agreed that Biden’s visit was good for Israel.

Sarah said: “I think it’s good and it’s important that the president of the United States is coming to Israel. It’s good for Israel’s relationship with the United States. But I think that what Trump believes about Israel is better than what Biden thinks. I think Trump’s policies were better for Israel.”

Nonetheless, they both were excited for the chance to be in close proximity to Biden.

“At the end of the day, he is still the president of the United States,” Sarah said.

Ariella Roitman and Marcella Homsany contributed to this report.