Jerusalem – President Bush’s trip in Israel began on an auspicious note. The Bulletin’s staff gathered in a coffee shop next to a supermarket in Sderot in southern Israel, and watched Mr. Bush’s arrival on a television set positioned above the vegetable section.

As Air Force One circled Ben Gurion International Airport, 90 minutes north of Sderot, Palestinian Arabs in Gaza fired a volley of 11 missiles at Israel. One of those missiles hit the home of the sister of the supermarket owner, exploding a few feet from a mother and baby. For that reason, perhaps, both Mr. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert mentioned at their joint press conference unless the Arabs in Gaza stop firing their missiles at Israel, progress in peace talks will be nil.

One of the first principles of Mr. Bush’s Middle East roadmap is the obligation of the Palestinian leadership to stop terrorism and dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. A statement issued on the eve of Mr. Bush’s visit by the Israeli Foreign Ministry declared that “The Israeli Foreign Ministry welcomes the opportunity for President Bush to reiterate the U.S. position, just a month after the number of Kassam rockets and mortars fired at Israel by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza during 2007 hit the 2,000 mark – nearly double the number in 2006”

Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, Prime Minister Olmert met on Tuesday with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and the two reportedly agreed on a framework for the final status talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which will be held in a three-tier format: ranging from lower-echelon talks between professional teams, to mid-level meetings between Foreign Minister Livni and chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei, to top-level talks between Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas. This is intended to ensure that talks between the professional teams will continue even if obstacles arise in the higher-level meetings.


Along with the ceremonial preparations, Israel was also carefully addressing the security aspect of the visit. The security establishment was not only concerned about Mr. Bush’s stay under Israeli responsibility, but also about his stay in Palestinian territory. On Thursday, Mr. Bush is expected to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the “mukataa’ headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

The scenario feared by Israeli intelligence is an assault by an angry Palestinian mob, or by a terror organization, on the sites Mr. Bush will visit. PA Chairman Abbas promised to deploy security personnel to protect Mr. Bush during his visit.

But, Israel did not take any chances.

According to a senior security source: “When Bush is in Ramallah and Bethlehem, the Palestinians are supposed to provide the security, but we will be supervising very closely. If a threat arises, we will fly in forces within minutes and rescue him.”

Mr. Bush’s entourage, however, did not settle only for Israeli security. “They are not taking anything from Israel,” said a security source yesterday.

“They have brought all the security equipment with them, such as night vision scopes, bloodhounds and electronic warfare equipment.”


One concrete result of Mr. Bush’s visit was the announcement the US Army is joining the battle against smuggling through the tunnels under Philadelphi Road on the Egyptian boder in a practical way.

It appears a team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently completed examinations, together with the Egyptians, on how to deal with the tunnels. In the next few days, an officer from the Corps of Engineers will arrive in Israel to hold coordination talks with the Southern Israeli Command. The sides will discuss starting the work

recommended by the team along the Egyptian border.

Among other things, the Americans found that when the Egyptians discover a tunnel, they plug its shaft. However, this is only a partial solution since the weapons smugglers reach the sealed tunnel using a nearby tunnel. And so while the Egyptians believe that they have shut down the tunnel, it continues to be used at full capacity. The American team determined that the only way to deal with the tunnels was to blow them up.

Mr. Bush has granted the Engineers $23 million dollars, and its task will be to carry out preventive work along Philadelphi Road. The money will be invested in developing technology and purchasing electronic measures to detect tunnels and to blow them up. The American officer who will come in the next few days for talks with the Southern Command will also serve as a liaison between the Egyptians and the Israeli Defense Forces.

Israeli security establishment officials are pleased with the Bush involvement in the war on smuggling, but senior sources noted the investment in technology and in searching for tunnels is only a partial solution.

They said the smuggling to the Gaza Strip would only stop when the Egyptian authorities began to arrest the smugglers in the Sinai Desert.

©The Bulletin 2008


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.