U.S. eyes selling Israel new fire engines

09:51, January 25, 2011      

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As the Israeli government tackles revamping the country's antiquated firefighting services in the wake of last month's deadly Carmel Ridge fire, the United States is eyeing a chunk of that budget, expected to total upwards of 220 million U.S. dollars this year.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv has submitted a complaint to the Trade, Industry and Labor Ministry that U.S.-made fire trucks are being "discriminated" in tenders issued recently by the national Firefighting and Emergency Services Commission, according to a report published Tuesday in the business supplement of Israel's daily Yedioth Aharonoth.

While U.S.-made trucks are sold in Israel and meet local standards, the tenders' prerequisite is for European-produced fire engines, U.S. officials reportedly grumbled.

In the wake of the blaze in northern Israel, which left 44 people dead, forced thousands to flee their homes and torched some five million trees over 6,000 hectares, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pitched earlier this month an emergency services bill worth 800 million shekels (about 220 million U.S. dollars) to his cabinet ministers.

A scathing report, citing lax funding and administration of the fire services over the course of several governments, was coupled by harsh criticism of Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai by officials and the bereaved families, who called for their resignation.

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