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A construction freeze at the West Wing

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By Jacky Rowland

There has been a temporary construction freeze on the White House lawn in honour of the Middle East peace talks hosted by President Obama. The bulldozers and cranes that are carrying out a refurbishment of the White House grounds drowned out our broadcasts on Tuesday. But on Wednesday they fell silent, as if paying an unconscious tribute to the better known construction freeze in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The removal of the noise and the dust from the construction work has left television reporters on the platform overlooking the White House with one less problem to deal with. Now we only have to contend with the frying heat, oppressive humidity, iron girders designed to knock our heads on, and carnivorous insects that attack us as we are live on air.

The talks themselves are going on beyond our view. Even the dignitaries’ cars are driving up to an entrance that we can’t see. Live press statements suddenly become taped press statements.

As the scorching afternoon slides into evening, President Obama will be hosting the leaders for an Iftar where the Muslim dignitaries will break their Ramadan fast. But we won’t be seeing the dates or the glasses of iced water because this event, too, is closed to cameras.

Jacky Rowland is an award-winning correspondent based in Jerusalem.

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