Pirate radio broadcasters to walk the plank

Mofaz warns air disaster imminent; says he has plan to wipe out 'aerial terror' infrastructure.

EL AL plane 1 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
EL AL plane 1 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz announced Sunday afternoon that a team he leads had consolidated a plan to wipe out the infrastructure of what he called "aerial terror." But unlike his previous, and possibly better known decision to take on a terror infrastructure in 2002's Operation Defensive Shield, this time, many of the suspects are located in areas such as Bnei Brak and Netanya. Pirate radio stations, broadcasting from the center of the country as well as from the West Bank, are the focus of Mofaz's newest operation, after a final weekend meeting succeeded in drawing up the plans of battle against the phenomenon. "The danger is at the door. Only last week we saw the terrifying results of an aeronautic disaster, like the one which happened in Brazil, and the threat of an air disaster in Israel as a result of pirate radio broadcasts is no less alarming. This is an emergency situation and thus we must operate in emergency conditions and not waste resources," said the former chief-of-staff following the weekend meeting of the Interministerial Committee for Addressing the Phenomenon of Pirate Radio Stations. During that meeting, Israel Police Investigations and Intelligence Division chief Cmdr. Yochanan Danino, head of the airline safety committee Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Lapidot, and the director-general of the Airports Authority, Gabi Ofir, together with representatives of the Transportation and Justice ministries met to put the final touches on their plan to wipe out pirate radio infrastructures. At the meeting, Mofaz described the stations as "air terror" and insisted they thus must receive due attention. Whereas prior to the committee's establishment, the phenomenon was confronted on a local level, all of the relevant authorities will now be coordinated on a national level in hopes of significantly reducing the phenomenon. In addition, the committee recommended tightening the current laws to increase what they described as the "very light" punishment currently on the books for offenders. The team's new plan is now based upon tracking down the criminals involved with pirate radio, including funders, advertisers, broadcasters, managers and any other at various levels of involvement - much akin to the IDF's strategy in breaking the backs of terror groups in 2002. The team said that they hoped to bring the offenders to justice and to the maximum sentences possible by law. Additionally, the committee recommended launching a public effort to explain and to raise awareness as to the severity of the phenomenon and to publicize the punishments awaiting would-be offenders. According to the plan, the number of devices allowing inspectors to locate broadcasts from the ground as well as from the air will be doubled, with assistance from the IDF and other security organizations. Mofaz instructed police to act widely, deeply and quickly to build serious indictments against offenders, However, he also warned that the real test would be at the Justice Ministry, to see if the courts would realize the judicial potential of the sentencing. All of these recommendations are expected to be brought for cabinet approval in the near future, although aspects of the program will already be put into effect in the coming days. The workers committee of the Airports Authority welcomed the move by Mofaz. Committee Chairman Pinhas Idan expressed his hope that the cabinet would okay the plan as soon as possible. "Pirate radio constitutes a clear danger to human life,' he said. "I congratulate the minister on the fact that he decided to address the topic with the appropriate determination. I am hopeful that the government will approve the plan quickly so that we can put a stop to this dangerous phenomenon."