Obama to travel Jerusalem in 'The Beast'
US president to ride around capital in moving fortress; 5,000 policemen to secure his every move
WASHINGTON - United States President Barack Obama 's security team is taking no chances: During the presidential visit in Israel which begins next Wednesday, the president will ride around Jerusalem in The Beast, the aptly named tank-turned-car, a rolling fortress.
Obama's motorcade will include two such vehicles – each costing $300,000 – driving around between a huge entourage of uniformed and undercover security men.
Though the American people have a historical affinity to seeing their presidents out in the open waving from horse drawn carriages and convertible limousines, these preferences were sadly laid aside following John Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
Obama at the White House (Photo: Reuters)
The Beast, the latest and the most significant change in presidential security procedures, was revealed at Obama's first inauguration in 2008, when upon seeing it, the president remarked on its similarity to a Boeing airplane.
The car is sealed and protected from chemical and biological weapons. The windows are bullet-proof, and its doors are an alloy of steel, aluminum, titanium and porcelain – proof against roadside-charges and rocket fire.
In addition, the gas tank is armored; the bumpers are equipped with night-vision sensors, cameras and devices to launch tear-gas.
The tires can still function if punctured, and, better safe than sorry, the trunk is filled with oxygen tanks, emergency blood units and fire-fighting equipment.
But this only covers the president's car.
On his visit to Israel, Obama will be secured by 5,000 police officers wherever he goes, and joint scenarios with the American Secret Service have been exercised simulating threats varying from an attempted assassination to general disruptions of order.
“This is a 48 hour visit but the preparations have been going on for more than a month," Police Head of Operations Brigadier General Nissim Mor told Ynet.
"There's no room for error," he added.
Presidential security (Photo: AFP)
But the Secret Service is not relying on local security, as experienced and esteemed as it might be:
In addition to Obama's first line of defense, comprised of police officers and security men, the president will be protected by a second circle of Secret Service agents meant to prevent any weapons or
suspicious elements from getting near him.
Though should an assassination attempt occur, 'taking the bullet' is the first circle's duty.
Saving Israeli drivers some agitation, Obama will make his way between Ben Gurion International Airport and Jerusalem by air, flying in the presidential Marine One helicopter.
President Obama is served by a fleet of 28 Blackhawk helicopters, each costing $15 million.
They take him from the White House to the Air Force One presidential airplane in Joint Base Andrews, or to the Camp David presidential retreat.
Obama in Air Force One (Photo: AP)
The helicopters wait for the president around the United States and in different locations worldwide, all equipped with anti-missile devices.
Following the September 11 terror attacks, the Secret Service turned the Air Force One to a virtual flying White House, which can stay in the air indefinitely with aerial refueling.
One of 28 presidential helicopters (Photo: Reuters)
Despite all precautions, a determined man is difficult to stop. During former US President George W. Bush's visit to Georgia, a live grenade was lobbed toward him landing only a few dozen meters away.
On Bush's visit to Iraq, a local journalist threw his shoe toward him.
Relative to Iraq, Israel is considered quite welcoming, but Obama's visit will still pose a challenge to the Secret Service, especially on his Ramallah detour.