Tree-trimming Mob Uncovered in Israel

man chop treeThe sting operation  “Weeds in the Underbrush” uncovered a cartel of tree-trimmers in Israel.

It’s really quite common to see the entire tops of trees lobbed off, and sitting by the side of the road in Tel Aviv, and other cities in Israel. It makes one sad, especially since it’s often done in the summer time, when the foliage is perfect for providing much needed shade. I always thought it was a throwback from the settlement days, when people lived in the Kibbutz and were eager to get back to nature by pruning it. Perhaps over enthusiastically. Turns out there is a very good reason for the tree-trimming madness in Israel, and it’s about money: Bribes, scandals, the Jewish National Fund, and the tree-trimming mobsters are in it together.

According to a news report today in the Haaretz/International Herald Tribune (no link), that Israeli tree-trimmers are part of a cartel, a mob that excessively trims trees to collect steep fines.

Backed by bribes to the Jewish National Fund staff, the Israel Electric Company and the Israel Defense Forces, the tree-trimming mafia have taken in dozens of millions of dollars for their pruning services, most of which was unnecessary. Working together, several companies competing for the services bid on what they offer as inflated tenders – artificially high so the bar for services would be very expensive.

These services include pruning under electric wires. Splitting all the work and income between the companies, these companies are suspected of bribing officials on the inside so they could better prepare their bids and earn excessively high amounts of fees for their services.

In a story in Haaretz just two weeks ago, city residents in Tel Aviv complained about the over-use of tree-pruning sheers:

“They destroyed 80 percent of each tree – it’s unbelievable,” one local said. “We sat with the municipality in endless meetings and talked about how it’s necessary to monitor the people who do the pruning. That didn’t happen with the last pruning.”

A hotline for the trees

Is this a reason to privatize services supposed to be handed by the government?

The government has now provided a hotline if you suspect someone is over-trimming public trees, or who are cutting them down or neglecting them. Call in Israel 03 948 5816 or email [email protected]

Image via state-library-australia

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