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No More Shin Bet Security for Israeli Teams in Games Abroad

The Israeli Basketball Federation is 'in shock' over a decision by the Shin Bet to stop protecting Israeli teams that play abroad.
By David Lev
First Publish: 8/5/2011, 5:11 AM

Basketball (illustration)
Basketball (illustration)
Flash 90

The Israeli Basketball Federation on Thursday sent a letter begging the Sports and Culture Ministry to intervene in a decision by the Shin Bet to stop providing protective services to Israeli basketball teams that play abroad. Until now, Shin Bet security officials would accompany teams abroad and help coordinate security with local officials – who provided the actual security – but the practice will end September 1, the Ministry informed the Federation in a letter earlier Thursday.

The Ministry letter, signed by the head of the Sports Authority, Dr. Uri Shefer, said that the change was due to a policy decision by the Shin Bet. “Because of this we will no longer be able to provide security for Israeli teams that participate in games in Europe, such as league championships.” The restriction would not apply to teams that are officially representing the state in event such as the Olympics; those teams will receive full security services from the Shin Bet, as usual. The decison applies to soccer teams as well.

In a letter to Shefer, Shai Shani, chairman of the Basketball Federation, said that the organization had been “in shock” after the letter was received. “We cannot allow a situation where Israeli teams are thrown on the mercy of other governments,” Shani wrote. “Teams that play abroad such as Maccabee Tel Aviv and Beitar Jerusalem represent the state no less than they represent themselves.”

Shani added that receiving proper security from the countries hosting them without Shin Bet help would be impossible, especially in countries like Turkey, Serbia, and Bosnia, where there were substantial numbers of anti-Israel Muslims, and whose governments were not particularly favorable to Israelis. “Without Shin Bet security I cannot see how Israeli teams will be able to participate in games abroad,” Shani added.