Security arrangements for Bush visit to cost Israel $25,000 an hour
8,000 police, security personnel to patrol capital during visit; Nearly all J'lem hotels booked during trip.
Don't even try looking for a hotel room in Jerusalem this week. There may be 7,000 hotel rooms in the capitol, but just about all will be occupied by U.S. President George W. Bush's delegation during his visit here Tuesday through Friday. A large number of rooms are booked for the 8,000 police and security officers coming to Jerusalem to guard the visit and keep order. About 450 rooms in the King David Hotel, where Bush is staying, and the Dan Panorama will be used by his entourage and as a press center.
The U.S. Embassy will move almost in its entirety from Tel Aviv to the King David for the visit, according to the hotel's general manager, Haim Shkedi. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will also be staying there, as will U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones.
"The logistical preparations are very complicated," explained Shkedi. "All 237 rooms in the hotel are taken by the entourage."
Guests who had booked rooms for the same period as Bush's stay were asked to change their plans, and the only guests in the King David Hotel will be Bush and his staff. "Most of them understood," said Shkedi. "Whoever was able to change their reservation dates did so, and whoever could not, we helped them to find alternative rooms." All hotels where Bush stays are emptied of all other guests since the September 11, 2001, attacks and the war in Iraq, said Shkedi.
One hotel that will not be hosting any of the Americans is the David Citadel Hotel, just down the street from the King David. Citadel owner Alfred Akirov was insulted that Bush is not staying in his hotel. The Inbal Hotel said that while it had provided a few rooms for the visit, it was mostly full with an international conference of a high tech firm.
The Mount Zion hotel, overlooking the Old City, is providing 60 rooms for the visit. In addition, many journalists will be staying there too. Security forces will be spread out all over the city's hotels. Birthright program participants are also filling Jerusalem hotels this week too.
As to the financial contribution of Bush's visit to Jerusalem, Shkedi feels that in the short run most Jerusalem businesses will actually be harmed, due to the closing of the roads and because security troops are not tourists. But, he says, the visit will improve the city's image around the world, when people see the president visiting the sites in the Old City and Yad Vashem.
All the preparations have certainly brought in millions of dollars. Yaakov Rubin of the Regency Hotel estimated that the Bush visit will net about $2.5 million in hotel revenues and another $1 million to $1.5 million for other businesses.
Israeli security personnel will include snipers, bomb-sniffing dogs and bodyguards, including reservists called up especially for the visit. The operation, dubbed "Clear Skies," will cost Israel $25,000 for every hour Bush is in the country.
White House staff, State Department officials, Secret Service agents, technicians and even marines have already arrived at the King David Hotel to prepare for the visit and secure the surrounding area. Security robots have been positioned in nearby street sewers to make sure there are no surprises underground. Snipers will be placed on nearby rooftops, and a balloon with camera and night-vision equipment will be on the lookout.