Winds, dust clouds ground presidential choppers, lead to cancellation of formal airport farewell ceremony
The arrival of inclement Mideastern weather Friday deeply disrupted the final hours of the visit to Israel and the West Bank by US President Barack Obama.
The air was filled with dust Friday morning and early afternoon, blown by strong winds. Visibility was minimal in and around Jerusalem, in the nearby West Bank area, and at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The president was supposed to be in Bethlehem at 12:30 p.m., for a visit to the Church of the Nativity, but only left Jerusalem shortly before 2 pm. He therefore met for far longer than expected at the King David Hotel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — an intended brief, summing-up meeting that extended for some three hours.
Obama had then planned to fly by helicopter from Bethlehem, his final stop, to the airport, but that appeared impossible.
The Bethlehem visit was the Christian component of his Holy Land trip, and an element he was reportedly reluctant to cancel. In Bethlehem itself, Palestinian Authority security forces waited for hours for his arrival.
The Prime Minister’s Office announced that the planned farewell ceremony at the airport would be canceled because of winds whipping the tarmac, and that a smaller ceremony would be held without the press.
From the airport, Obama is slated to fly to Amman.