President Bush will be in Israel tomorrow at the start of a Mideast visit that will carry him to several countries, and security precautions are massive. For example, in Jerusalem, where it is normally impossible to park anyway, many streets will be entirely closed to parking for Wednesday through Friday. There will be 10,500 police plus reservists and other security personnel involved in security arrangements. The AP estimates that security for the President will cost Israel $25,000 for each hour he is in the country. And this doesn’t include the cost to the US for hundreds of hotel rooms (including all 237 rooms of the King David, one of most expensive hotels in Israel), as well as the cost of flying several helicopters and armored limousines in from the US. You can read the incredible details here.
He is expected to visit Ramallah on Thursday as well, and that is indeed worrisome, what with elements of many terrorist factions — including al-Qaeda — likely to have a presence in the West Bank.
US helicopter lands at the Muqata in Ramallah
Yesterday, two Katyusha missiles were fired from Lebanon at the northern Israeli town of Shlomi. IDF analysts believe that they were probably fired by a Palestinian terrorist group associated with al-Qaeda, perhaps in honor of Bush’s visit. And Adam Gadahn, al-Qaeda’s American-born spokesidiot has called for Bush’s welcome to be with “bombs and car bombs”.
Given the enormous cost, complexity and danger of the operation, one would think that some highly critical goal is being sought. And maybe there is such a goal, but it cannot be Israeli-Arab peace, because Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas cannot deliver a peace agreement. He does not represent a majority of Palestinians, he does not control a large part of the area in which the US so passionately wants to create a Palestinian state, and he is not free to offer a deal that Israel could accept (one that does not demand a right of return).
All this is known to everyone involved.
It seems to me that the really important part of this visit lies outside of Israel and the territories. For example, Mr. Bush will be visiting Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, next week, and he is expected to tell the Saudis that he has notified the US Congress of a proposed $20 billion arms sale that includes supplying them with “smart bombs” (JDAMs).
He will visit Kuwait, Bahrein, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and finally Egypt before returning home, apparently in an effort to shore up a conservative coalition against the destabilizing policies of Iran and Syria — or maybe to try to explain to them why his administration issued a pass to Iran’s nuclear weapons development with the recent release of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
In the midst of all of this, I hope that Israel does not pay the price in concessions to an impotent PA — concessions which can only damage Israel’s security and make peace even harder to obtain in the future — in order to bolster an American attempt to improve relations with the Arab states.