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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bus security unit to be disbanded

Maariv is reporting today that due to budgetary constraints and the Finance Ministry's decision that it's not needed anymore, the public transportation security unit is being disbanded as of September 1. This was done over the opposition of Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. (Link in Hebrew).

As a result of the unit's being disbanded, hundreds of security guards - who are graduates of IDF combat units - will be laid off. The decision to disband the unit was made by the Transportation Ministry under pressure from the Finance Ministry. All of Israel's public bus companies, as well as its police were opposed to the closing down the unit, which has drastically reduced the number of suicide bombings on Israel's buses. Egged spokesman Ron Ratner said that the unit's annual cost is approximately NIS 80 million (less than $20 million).

In August 2005, two of the units guards were critically injured foiling a suicide bombing in the Beer Sheva central bus station. Egged has already stated that it will oppose the closure:

"This is a scandal. In the last year and a half, there has been a sharp increase in the number of passengers on public transportation because they now feel safe traveling on buses," said a senior Egged staffer. "But now a Finance Ministry clerk, who last used a bus on a field trip when he was a schoolboy, and only travels in executive cars since, who is not aware of the necessity for the public transportation security unit and its contribution to the feeling of security of the passengers, [has decided to stop funding the unit] and all to save a few tens of millions of Shekels from the State budget," said the Egged senior staffer.

The Transportation Ministry has confirmed this report. Transportation Ministry spokesman Avner Ovadia said that "this is a government decision that was adopted over the vigorous objections of the Minister of Transportation, Shaul Mofaz. We're talking about a good unit that had many achievements in battling the terror groups.


At 1:46 PM, Blogger The Lone Cabbage said...

How the heck does the bill for "several hundred" security guards amount to $20million?! I know the dollar is weaker now but really!

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

The Lone Cabbage,

If there are 800 security guards and it's $20 million, that comes to $25,000 per guard per year. Not unreasonable. for that matter, even if it's 400 guards at $50,000 per year, that's not unreasonable.


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