I arrive early to make preparations for the Secretary’s joint press conference with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Abbas. As I enter the Ramallah PA Presidential compound, I quickly scan the press conference room for Mohamed. Meeting and getting to know people like Mohamed, the head of the Presidential Press Office, is one of the best parts of being a Foreign Service Officer. He is a kind professional and quick with a smile. He and I have worked on a lot of official visits together, and he invites me for a cup of tea in his office. We go over final preparations and chat about our families, knowing that soon this quiet will be taken over by the excitement of history in the making.
The Secretary’s motorcade pulls up and the door to press van one opens. The CBS camera crew piles out as I hustle them up to the stairway leading to the Presidential offices. The local camera crews join us and immediately the throng begins to push up the stairwell to get the “photo-spray” of Secretary Clinton’s first meeting with Palestinian Authority President Abbas. There is extra energy in the press corps today, as they jockey for position, and I am grateful when the head of Palestinian Authority protocol fishes me out of the throng. The Presidency is generous with the press and gives them an extra few minutes for filming. The cameras exit the meeting room, jeans-clad journalists balancing thousand dollar equipment on their shoulders commenting, “Good, really good. We got what we needed.” My adrenalin flow ebbs a bit, as I lead the camera crews down into the press conference room, and they settle into position to wait while the Secretary and President continue discussions upstairs. The trickiest part is behind me. I give Mohamed the “thumbs up,” and we agree that all is set for a successful press conference.