Now I know why I wasn’t notified of this briefing

Dion Nissenbaum has explained it all for me in his latest Blog: Checkpoint Jerusalem post, entitled Strippin’ for Cheney.

To attend — or to be in attendance at — U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s press encounter with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dion and other journalists had to drop their pants for security first.

Even Saddam Hussein — who was famous for the wierd security rituals he subjected journalists to, before they could be in his presence — did not go this far.  Dion doesn’t explain what happened to female journalists — that is, if any were present (don’t take this for granted …)

Dion wrote: “After a five-year absence, US VP Dick Cheney returned to Israel this weekend as part of a broader Middle East trip … The VP, as most people know, has a reputation for secrecy and inaccessibility. (For more, check out the award-winning series, “Angler,” from The Washington Post.) This trip did little to dispel that notion. Cheney arrived on Saturday night and met Israeli PM Ehud Olmert for dinner. Before getting their nosh on, the two were slated to hold an evening news conference at Olmert’s Jerusalem residence. Security in Israel — from the airport to the Israeli parliament — is exceptionally tight, and getting into Olmert’s official residence was especially intrusive. First came the normal procedure of being pulled out of the line and questioned: How long have you lived here? Where do you live? Do you live alone? Do you have family here? Do you speak any Hebrew? Why do you travel to Jordan and Egypt? Have you been to Syria and Lebanon? Do you have friends in those countries? Etc. etc. etc… This process seemed to drag on especially long and a photographer who has lived here nearly a quarter century, has two kids and is married to an Israeli, stormed off after being held at the entrance for more than an hour. Once you make it past the first check, (if you make it through the first check) there’s the routine metal detector and x-ray machine, followed by the side trip behind the curtains for a body search. Only, this time, I was asked to drop my pants. ‘Really?’ I asked the security officer, who seemed slightly embarrassed by it all, though, since he does it all the time, I suspect he wasn’t really… The security guard said he needed to check the zipper of my jeans, though security also made other international reporters in normal pants strip before getting into the press conference. Strippin’ for Cheney might have been worth it – had we been given the chance to ask a question or two of the vice president. Instead, at the last minute, apparently, Cheney decided not to take questions … Fine. Lesson learned. That’s the last time I drop my pants for the vice president”.

Dion’s revelations were posted on 24 March on his Blog: Checkpoint Jerusalem here .

Israel: More security for the holidays – driving people nuts

There are peace talks, Israel increases the security. There is a holiday, Israel increases the security. Red and Orange alerts. The day before the Annapolis meeting, traffic in the northern part of Jerusalem and the nearby West Bank was brought to a total gridlock halt. For 3 to 5 hours, depending on the exact spot, people just sat in their cars. The theater of security.

Normally, holidays bring total indefinite closure of the Palestinian territory — now, since Gaza has been almost totally blocaded, it is the West Bank that is most affected. The announcement of the closures is not made in advance, but everybody has more or less come to expect it. The Chanukah holiday started at sunset this evening in Israel, and the country has been put on the second-highest level of alert.

Kol Israel reported tonight that “Thousands of police are to be positioned at central locations, and provide security at events taking place to mark the 8-day festival. In addition, police are setting up roadblocks at city entrances and crossing points into the Palestinian Authority“. So, this will go on until 13 December, at least …