Israel will be dedicating a great deal of its resources to ensuring a successful visit for U.S. President Barack H. Obama, due here Wednesday. Thousands of police will be taken off their usual crime-fighting patrols and be deployed in the service of Obama's large contingent.
Over 5,000 police will be directly involved in providing security for Obama and his entourage, while hundreds of others will be helping out in indirect ways. For example, over 100 officers will be added to the police help line specifically to deal with issues called in by citizens relating to the Obama visit. Police will keep citizens updated on all aspects of the visit by phone and through social media.
Over 1,000 police alone will be deployed around the King David Hotel, where Obama will be staying, and will follow Obama around as he pays visits to people and institutions during his three day visit here.
For Israelis, and especially many Jerusalemites, their main memory of Obama's visit is likely to be the traffic nightmare the president will bring in his wake. Obama could not have come at a worse time, from the traffic point of view: The week before Passover is one of Israel's heaviest shopping periods, and the streets are jammed with shoppers as it is. With Obama spending most of his visit in Jerusalem, many roads will be closed, parking throughout the center of the city will be sharply limited, and security measures, such as checkpoints, will slow traffic to a crawl.
Already on Sunday, long before Obama arrives, traffic in Jerusalem was extremely choked, as police began setting up barricades, and many Jerusalemites took to the road to finish their Passover shopping while the roads are still open.
Among the roads to be closed sporadically during Obama's visit will be Road 1, between Ben Gurion Airport and the entrance to Jerusalem, as well as main Jerusalem thoroughfares such as Herzl Boulevard and Derech Hevron. Police said they will make every effort to ensure that roads are closed only of absolutely necessary.