This post was originally written by Maya Norton for Global Voices Online.
Olmert, Bush, and Abbas last met in November 2007 at the Annapolis Peace Summit. Photo sourced from the United States Department of State.
American President George W. Bush is arriving in Israel today and for once, English speaking Israelis have little to say. Views fall primarily into two camps:
- Complaints about the short-term discomfort that high security will cause Jerusalemites in their daily routines
- Concern about new rockets launched from Lebanon and ongoing attacks from Gaza hailing Bush's visit
During his two-day stay, Bush's primary purpose is to monitor and encourage the peace talks between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority with the goal of establishing a Palestinian state in 2008. While in Israel, he will meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and later with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
President Bush's last visit to Israel was in 1998, shortly before his first term as president.
The visit will cost Israel an unbelievable $25,000 an hour in security and force closings of all main streets for the next two days.
Rooftopper Rav of Jewschool exclaims:
“That feels unconscionable. This country kept its high school students out of school for two months because it balked at paying teachers a living wage, still refuses to pay its university teachers a decent wage, hasnâ€™t yet fully made good on its financial and other promises to evacuees from Gaza, and continues to let its poor, its elderly, and its Holocaust survivors languish without proper financial and medical assistance. And somehow thereâ€™s enough money to spend $25,000 an hour on George Bush.”
In a post entitled, “Waiting for George,” Gideon Lichfield of Fugitive Peace comments:
“Jerusalem traffic has already slowed to about half its usual speed. Military choppers keep buzzing overhead in both Jerusalem and Ramallah. There are more guns around than at an NRA [National Rifle Association] convention. People are avoiding making appointments for the next couple of days… This had better be good.”
Efratti of From Nation's Capital to Nation's Capital adds:
“This city is totally paralyzed. All of the cops, national traffic police, and other branches of security are in my general neighborhood. I really hope there are no incidents of domestic violence or car accidents that require police attention; those victims will be totally out of luck.”
Eliesheva of Lizrael asks:
“Couldnâ€™t President Bush just hold a conference call with the Middle Eastern leaders? Iâ€™m sure between the American and Israeli governments, someone could afford a couple of web cams. Didnâ€™t Israel invent web cams? ICQ? Tiny USB sticks?…
Itâ€™s just that – with all due respect (or not) – all of us â€˜regular peopleâ€™ in Jerusalem are going to be mighty peeved as this Wednesday through Friday we sit in hours of traffic, arrive to work late and endure loud caravan sirens on the residential streets. Ah, what we sacrifice in the name of peace.”
Two katyusha rockets were fired into Israel from Southern Lebanon yesterday, causing KGS of Tundra Tabloids to remark:
“So Hezbollah has gotten the green light from its patron in Iran to rattle its saber in wake of the US President Bush's visit to the region. That's to be expected, especially since Iran felt it necessary to provoke an almost certain response from US ships in the Straights of Hormuz.”
Echoing a popular Israeli opinion, he adds:
“As long as the Palestinians have yet to give up on their dream of ‘greater Palestine,’ the Israeli parliament and the people will be in no mood to give any kind of support to anything PM Ehud Olmert agrees to. There are no signs of anything good coming out of a Bush visit to both Israel and the PA… I would hope that if anything positive can be done during his visit, it's in the realm of convincing the Arabs in the region that the US will not allow for a nuclear Iran.”
The author of This Ongoing War adds that rockets are also being launched from Gaza into southern Israel as a warning for Bush's visit:
“By no coincidence at all, the increased heat on our northern front is matched this morning with lethal weapon attacks on our southern front. Bush is coming to town, and the media are here. 9 Qassams and at least 2 mortars have crashed into Israel's western Negev so far this morning (Wednesday) hours before President Bush's arrival at Ben Gurion airport.”
President Bush's Israel visit is part of an 8-day tour through the Middle East. He is also scheduled to visit Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt in an effort to contain the threat of a nuclear Iran.