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KAI RYSSDAL: President Bush started his 9-day trip to the Middle East today. He landed in Israel this morning. He’ll be going to the West Bank tomorrow. Daniel Estrin reports now from Jerusalem the stage has been dramatically set for the President’s visit. And at no small cost.
DANIEL ESTRIN: Police have shut down major thoroughfares to ensure that Bush can zip through the city as safely as possible. American flags line the streets. At times, no cars or buses are allowed through, and all parked cars have been towed.
Moshe Benzioni, an advisor to the mayor of Jerusalem, says just the cost for decorations and street cleanings alone runs $400,000.
MOSHE BENZIONI: I imagine that the people who are going to be stuck in traffic jams are going to be very unhappy. I think, in general, the Israeli public is very happy that the president is coming.
Nearly 10,500 law enforcement agents stand guard. That’s about a third of the entire Israeli police force. City officials will shut off the lights in Old Jerusalem so Bush can enjoy a more dramatic sunrise over the city’s ancient stone walls.
It’s creating a surreal feel here. One shop owner described it this way:
ETI SOFER: We feel here like in a American movie. See helicopters and CIA people and a lot of strange vehicles that you can’t see in Israel. It’s kind of nice.
Securing a political peace here in the twilight of Bush’s administration is considered a long shot. He’s expected to get into meatier economic issues on his next few stops. He heads to Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves and investment funds.
From Jerusalem, I’m Daniel Estrin for Marketplace.
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