The nation’s bullet proof vest

by Maskil on September 4, 2007

I have previously expressed my concern regarding the imminent disbanding of Israel’s public transportation security unit (fiercely opposed by the Transport Ministry, Israel Police and Egged). To get a better understanding of the functioning of this unit, and the impact its disbanding will have on the public (and on the members of the unit itself), please watch this Infolive.tv report (link below). The unit, known colloquially as the Magen (Shield) unit, is said to be of battalion strength, so the economic impact in terms of employment is hardly negligible (assume anything from 500 to 1,000 jobs, plus dependants).

The reason for disbanding the unit is said to be the decline in the level of suicide attacks and a lack of funding. I am concerned that the lives of Israeli citizens are (once again?) being used as cheap currency to accomplish some other noble (or ignoble) objective, in this case balancing a budget. Common sense would seem to indicate that the time to disband this unit is once a comprehensive state of peace exists between Israel and all its homicidal neighbours (especially those west of the Jordan), not before. (Yes, I know, I’ll eat my hat too.) Once the capabilities and capacities that exist within this unit are dissipated, it will take a huge and unnecessary effort to reinstate them.

At the very least, I would like to see this unit remain intact, even if some rationalisation does prove to be absolutely necessary. Better yet, the unit should become a permanent fixture of Israeli life, in the same way as sky marshals on El Al flights. I would actually like to see it become the nucleus of a nationwide transit/transportation police or border police unit. This unit would then be responsible for both security and crime prevention on Israel’s entire land-based transportation network, conducting both uniformed and plain-clothes/undercover operations.

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