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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Special License Plates for Stolen Cars

Unbelievable... but true! The Palestinian authority issues special license plates for cars known to be stolen from Israel. There are even variants for stolen cars used as taxis or... for official governmental use! Don't believe me? Listen to this story on NPR.

OK, now that you believe me, here are some details beyond what you have heard on NPR.

For years, Israeli-Arabs were stealing cars in Israel and driving them to Palestinian relatives in the West Bank or Gaza. Within hours, a car was fully dismantled into its components. Later, the components were resold to unscrupulous Israeli mechanics seeking low cost spare parts.

Then, in the nineties, the Oslo process changed the rules of the game: once a stolen car was driven into Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, the thieves were home safe - beyond the reach of Israeli Police. The Palestinian Authority did nothing but encourage the practice. Gone was the need to act quickly and take the car apart. A much more lucrative market of drivable stolen cars emerged. At its peak, the phenomenon was huge: 15% of all new cars sold in Israel were purchased as replacements for stolen cars!

And then Arafat initiated the second Intifada. That was bad news for everybody – including for car thieves; Israel had to erect new road blocks and regain control of virtually all of the West Bank. Smuggling cars out of Israel became much more difficult and freely driving a stolen car became something confined to the Gaza strip.

And you thought that issuing driving licenses to illegal aliens was an original California idea?!

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