Capital to get major sprucing-up ahead of Bush visit

J'lem opposition leader criticizes municipality for failing to keep city clean the rest of the year.

King David 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
King David 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Jerusalem is getting a multimillion-shekel face-lift for US President George W. Bush's visit next month. Central Jerusalem's streets - specifically King David, where Bush and his entourage will be staying - will be doused with water and thoroughly cleaned, potholes will be repaired, garbage bins removed and flowerpots installed. The whole area, which houses some posh hotels, will be festooned with US and Israeli flags. The state had transferred NIS 9 million to the Jerusalem Municipality for the cleanup ahead of Bush's three-day visit, which will begin on January 9, the Jerusalem weekly Yediot Yerushalayim reported. The municipality declined comment on Sunday. But city residents who do not live in central Jerusalem should not expect to see extra street cleaners in their neighborhoods any time soon. The operation is intended to focus primarily on the streets where the president's entourage will pass. That includes the road to the Knesset from the King David Hotel, where Bush will be staying on his first trip to Israel as president, and to the Old City, where he may visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, security permitting. The area surrounding the hotels - from the David Citadel Hotel to the Inbal Hotel - is expected to be cordoned off by police and closed to traffic and pedestrians. Major traffic jams are expected in the area during the visit, much like when US president Bill Clinton visited in 1996. A special team led by the city's deputy director-general had been appointed to deal with the necessary preparations for the increased sanitation services, Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling said Sunday. The public would be informed in advance of all road closures, he added. Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat criticized the municipality for failing to keep the city clean during the rest of the year. "Unfortunately, the municipality has failed to keep the city clean, and all the city is dirty," he said Sunday. "Jerusalem deserves to be clean year-round - not just for its visitors, but for its residents." Beit Hanassi is also being spruced up for Bush's visit. Furniture is being renovated and new pieces are being bought, Beit Hanassi reported.