US President Joe Biden’s visit later this week is set to snarl traffic in central Israel, with the main highway connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv set to close for hours in both directions on Wednesday afternoon, police announced on Sunday.
Biden will land at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday afternoon and depart from it en route to Saudi Arabia on Friday afternoon. Security arrangements for the visit, officially titled “Blue Shield 3,” are set to include over 16,000 police officers, Border Police officers and volunteers.
The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, known as Route 1, will be closed between the airport-area Shapirim Interchange and the entrance to Jerusalem, police said in a statement. Traffic in both directions will be redirected to Routes 44, 444 and 443.
The police warned of traffic disruptions and roadblocks throughout the country’s center, Jerusalem and the highways leading to it during Biden’s visit, adding that details will be posted on the Israel Police’s social media outlets.
Meanwhile, the Israel Police and the Israeli Air Force have been conducting drills in advance of Biden’s arrival throughout the center of Israel, primarily focusing on securing travel between Biden’s planned destinations. The military drill was scheduled to end Sunday night.
The police presence will be focused on the Ben Gurion Airport area, Jerusalem and main throughways to the capital. Police control centers and hotlines will be active throughout the US president’s visit, the statement said.
The statement also emphasized that all private aircraft, including drones, are forbidden in the airspace of Ben Gurion Airport and Jerusalem throughout the visit.
Biden’s trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia marks his first time in the Middle East as US president, but his tenth visit to Israel overall. While originally scheduled for late June, his trip was pushed back to this week due to scheduling issues that an Israeli official said were related to the Saudi Arabian leg of his trip. Biden accepted Israel’s invitation to visit in late April.
According to the latest version of Biden’s schedule, released Thursday, the president will be greeted by Prime Minister Yair Lapid upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, and will then tour various security systems with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, also at the airport. The latter part was originally set to take part at the Palmachim airbase, but was moved to the airport on Sunday to save commuting time and traffic arrangements.
He will then travel to Jerusalem, where he will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.
On Thursday, Biden is scheduled to have various meetings with Israeli politicians, including Lapid and Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Biden and Lapid will then attend a virtual I2U2 forum meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed to discuss food security and other potential areas of collaboration between the UAE and Israel, a White House official said.
Biden will then meet with President Isaac Herzog at his residence in Jerusalem, where he will be awarded the Medal of Honor, and will then speak with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden will also address the crowd with Lapid and Bennett at the opening of the Maccabiah Jewish Olympic games Thursday evening.
On Friday, Biden will visit the Augusta Victoria Hospital on East Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, a cornerstone of the Palestinian healthcare system that works with Israeli healthcare providers. It will mark the first time a sitting US president visits a largely Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem that is not the Old City. There, Biden will announce US funding for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network as well as funding from other Gulf States.
Biden will then travel to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after which he will announce a number of steps that both the US and Israel plan to take to strengthen the Palestinian Authority; exact details have not yet been finalized, a senior US official said.
After his meeting with Abbas, Biden will travel directly to Saudi Arabia, where he is scheduled to attend the GCC+3 summit on Saturday with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including representatives from Qatar, Jordan and Iraq.