Hail to the Chief (And His Massive Cargo Planes)

Preparations for U.S. President George W. Bush's arrival in Israel this Wednesday have moved into high gear. Five enormous C-17 cargo planes carrying mainly security equipment for the visit are scheduled to land at Ben-Gurion International Airport today, Haaretz has learned. The cargo includes armored cars, and helicopters that will escort the president throughout his visit to Israel.

Bush will be welcomed at the airport Wednesday with an official state ceremony, which will follow the same format as the one held in honor of his previous visit a few months ago. A dress rehearsal for the ceremony will take place tomorrow.

Bleachers will be erected for invitees to the welcome ceremony, who include Israeli ministers, police commissioner, Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Supreme Court president, chief rabbis and other VIPs.

The planned etiquette includes a trumpet fanfare preceding Bush's exit from the presidential jet, Air Force One and an IDF honor guard. The IDF band will play the national anthems of both countries.

Bush tops the list of some 20 former and current world leaders scheduled to arrive this week in Israel for events marking the country's 60th birthday. These include: former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is already in Israel; former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev; former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer; and former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger.