– Major Middle East news events ordinarily are the salad days of Israeli taxi
starved of tourists in the off-season, the Jewish state’s cabbies look forward
to the reliable influx of foreign journalists when something big breaks.
But not this time.
Bush’s visit, which began Wednesday, brought an extraordinary police clampdown
on Jerusalem, where he was to be based for his three-day stay.
who did not heed a municipal warning to move their cars from several of the
capital’s main arteries found them towed away. Some central roads were sealed
off entirely by U.S. and Israeli secret agents, while others were shut down
within the general proximity of Bush’s cavalcade — an hour before until a half
pedestrians found themselves frequently held up by Israeli police and soldiers
posted at key intersections with orders to check the ID cards of passers-by.
seems like the majority of faces Bush will see during his trip to Israel will
be American faces," said Channel 2 television reporter Moshe Nussbaum,
referring to the hundreds of U.S. Secret Service personnel who fanned out in
Jerusalem and brought its hotels to full occupancy.
reflecting Israeli skepticism about the substance of Bush’s visit, the talk of
the town in Jerusalem around his visit was more about road closures and
security precautions than about peacemaking.
up, many taxi drivers shunned the city.
like another siege," said cabbie Eliezer Cohen, 69, who was a child when
Arab forces blockaded Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem during Israel’s 1948
this fuss over a man who hasn’t really delivered that much," he said.
Jerusalem Police chief, Aharon Franco, asked city residents to help out
"by avoiding the main roads during the critical hours.”
made for jam-packed peripheral routes, though municipal officials pledged to
coordinate movement inside the city.
don’t think there is any reason for the public to stay home," said City
Hall official Tal Shumer, adding that an "affirmative action" policy
had been instituted for traffic lights, ensuring that vehicles would be
directed away from the clogged zones.
skeptical take on Bush’s contribution to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking was
shared by many local pundits, who saw a handy metaphor in Jerusalem’s security
State of Israel, with slightly excessive excitement and slightly hysterical
blocking of roads, will thank an enthusiastic cheerleader and a devoted fan who
mainly excelled in issuing a blank check for Israel’s policies of all
varieties, right and left — from building settlements, constructing the
separation fence and managing the war in Lebanon to supporting unilateral
disengagement and bilateral negotiations over the ‘core issues’, which are now
taking shape," wrote left-wing commentator Hemi Shalev in the Israeli
daily Hayom newspaper.
right-wing daily Makor Rishon-Hatzofe ran an editorial slamming Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert’s willingness to impose a moratorium on West Bank settlement
can’t freeze a living place," the editorial said.
Iran and Palestinian terrorism topping the agenda of Wednesday’s talks between
Olmert and Bush, one seasoned Jerusalemite had a topical bit of advice for the
hear that nowadays they are digging a secret city underground for the nation’s
leaders," David Kuperman wrote in Yediot Achronot. "So I tell myself,
why don’t they spend the next three days there, all those esteemed notables,
along with President Bush, in the bunker? That way they will be able to check
if he is steadfast in the face of the Iranians and liberate him from the
problems of traffic jams."