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March 19, 2013 2:27 pm

Final Preparations in High Gear as Israel Awaits Obama

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama at a previous occasion. Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak.

Final preparations are being made ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel Wednesday. From security arrangements to party planning, the process of welcoming, securing and entertaining one of the most powerful men in the world is in the home stretch.

Obama is expected to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport Wednesday then take a helicopter to Jerusalem, but not before a lavish welcoming ceremony in which he will be greeted by Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Jerusalem he’ll be staying at the King David hotel. His entourage has reportedly reserved 230 rooms for the visit. Major destinations and roads in the city will be shutdown during his stay. For example, the Israel Museum has closed its doors to the public both Wednesday and Thursday ahead of a planned visit by the U.S. president. According to Major General Yossi Pariente, commander of the Jerusalem District, police are trying to minimize the effect on the city’s residents, but still, he said, “residents will feel some impact.”

Wednesday night Obama will dine at the President’s residence. Staff there have been working frantically ahead of the event. Ninette Cohen, in charge of utility workers on the compound, has the unenviable task of making sure everything is placed precisely as it should. “Everyone has energetically pitched in,” she told Ynet.com. “I’m looking forward to meeting Obama, shaking his hand and taking a photo with him. I will tell him ‘Welcome to Israel, we love you.'”

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On Thursday evening, Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will participate in a ceremonial dinner. Only 120 people will be invited to partake, 70 of them Israeli. Yoram Ravid, deputy director of the President’s Residence told Ynet.com, “It was a challenge simply to decide on the list. There was immense pressure to provide invitations to the event. The participants at the dinner are senior members of Israeli society. We tried to create a heterogeneous group covering all colors of the rainbow.”

Guests at the dinner will include the IDF chief of staff, the heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet, the Supreme Court president, and Nobel Prize recipients. Israeli singers Rita and David D’Or will perform. Peres will present Obama with the Presidential Medal.

Security in the areas in which Obama will visit will be significantly bolstered. Even the cake with figures of the two presidents on it was x-rayed.”The President’s Residence looks like a fortress,” a high level security source within the compound told Ynet.com.

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