Bush, Olmert, and Abbas at last month's Annapolis Conference
Photo: AP
Rabin's bodyguard to accompany Bush on Holyland visit
US president's visit to Israel one of the largest protection operations Shin Bet has ever known. Director of bodyguard operations who stood next to Rabin on the night of his murder will meet with American counterparts Thursday

One of bodyguards escorting Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the night of his murder will be responsible for the security of US President George Bush when he visits Israel next month, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.


The bodyguard, who has since been promoted, has spent the last month in a flurry of activity, scurrying between the offices of anyone connected to the president's visit. Bush is slated to arrive January 9th for his first official visit to Israel, which will last three days and constitute one of the most complicated bodyguard operations of the last decade.


On Monday a meeting on the issue took place at the Prime Minister's Office with the participation of PMO Deputy Director General Amnon Ben-Ami, Rabin's bodyguard, officials responsible for the official ceremony, and representatives of the President's Residence, the IDF, the police, and the Jerusalem Municipality.


In the meeting, the bodyguard spoke of the difficulties expected during the president's visit and of frantic preparations in the Shin Bet. He stated that the event was one of such proportions so as to require special preparations: "Eight thousand policemen will provide security during the visit in addition to members of the American secret service."


Three large Galaxy cargo planes will bring special protection equipment to Israel, including a few armored vehicles. It became clear during the meeting that the Americans will use little, if any, Israeli equipment.


On Thursday, the bodyguard will conduct an introductory conversation with representatives of the president's personal bodyguard staff, and the two sides will scout the locations the president is set to visit.


On the day the president lands, Highway 1 (in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv corridor) will be closed on both sides until Bush arrives at Jerusalem's King David Hotel. The capital itself will be decorated with over 1,500 American and Israeli flags, and dozens of Israeli children will greet the president at the hotel, a well-known Jerusalem landmark. He will stay in the royal suite facing the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, which will be illuminated with green lights for the occasion.


More than simply holy

"We wish to show him that Jerusalem is not just an important place, holy to three religions, but also environmentally conscious and tourist friendly," a source from the municipality said. From the hotel, Bush will proceed to President Shimon Peres' residence, the Prime Minister's Residence, and Yad Vashem.


The American president is likewise expected to meet with senior Palestinian Authority officials in Jericho. Sources in the Jerusalem Municipality have expressed disappointment that the president will not tour the Old City or the capital's various churches.


It would seem that Bush can expect a pleasant stay in Israel, something that can not be said of the capital's residents themselves: they can only look forward to the myriad traffic-jams bound to befall the city when different areas of the city are declared 'sterile' and sealed over the course of the visit.


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