Police's biggest concern for Bush visit: Disturbances by extremists groups
Disturbances by extremist Israeli groups top the list of the Jerusalem police's concerns as the capital gears up for U.S. President George W. Bush's three-day visit, which begins today.
Police yesterday questioned right-wing activists suspected of hanging up posters featuring images of Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres wearing kaffiyehs. Police said they did not think the activists had violated the law against incitement, but that they would probably be accused of vandalism.
Last week, police questioned right-wing activists accused of printing shirts with the logo of the outlawed far-right Kach group ahead of a protest scheduled to take place during Bush's visit.
Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco said yesterday that police have not received any intelligence indicating that terrorists plan to attack Bush's convoy or any other targets in the city during the president's visit. Franco said this week he was confident Bush's visit would not be sabotaged.
The more than 8,000 police officers assigned to protect Jerusalem for the next three days are preparing for protests, both legal and illegal. They trained for the visit yesterday by reacting to simulated disturbances and other scenarios.
The Hadash party and the Almagor association of terror victims are planning separate protests today; both groups have received a permit for their demonstration. Police also expect supporters of Jonathan Pollard, an American citizen serving a life sentence for spying for Israel, to demonstrate in favor of his release from prison. Pollard supporters once reached the floor of the hotel where U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was staying in an effort to convey their demands.
For the next three days, Jerusalem residents will have to contend with the traffic jams expected as a result of the closing of more than 20 streets, including central thoroughfares. Police said yesterday they would also close the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway (Route 1) and part of Route 6 (the Trans-Israel Highway) between 12:15 P.M. and 1 P.M. today, to make it easy for Bush's entourage to get from the airport to the ceremonies planned to welcome the president to the country. Bush himself will be flown to Jerusalem in a helicopter and will land on a helipad specially built for the president at a stadium on the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Givat Ram campus.
Intercity traffic will be diverted to Route 443 while Route 1 is closed to the public, and car and bus drivers in Jerusalem will be directed to use alternate routes. The city plans to change the traffic light pattern to make traffic flow better on the alternate routes.
The city distributed 13,000 flyers to residents living near the convoy route, advising them to carry their national identity cards so they can prove to police that they live in the area. The streets on the convoy route will be closed to traffic four hours before the convoy goes through, while streets near the King David Hotel, where Bush is staying, will be closed to traffic for the entire three days as a security measure.
In addition, people will not be allowed to park their cars on the streets the convoy will be using. Any cars parked there as of this morning will be towed to a special lot set up near Teddy Stadium.
The Jerusalem municipality announced yesterday it had finished hanging up more than 1,500 American, Israeli and Jerusalem flags and fixed the roads to be used by the convoy.