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ISRAEL: Guns missing from Israeli prime minister's security detail in U.S.

July 7, 2010 |  5:45 pm

800px-MarineCorpsGlock18

Luggage belonging to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security detail crisscrossed America until finally turning up, four handguns short, U.S. sources reported Wednesday. A spokesperson for Israel's General Security Services told Reuters that the handguns were part of the equipment sent ahead of Netanyahu to Washington "and got lost." The official added that Israeli and U.S. authorities were investigating.

Netanyahu's bodyguards landed at JFK, where their luggage was rechecked to continue to Washington -- including two suitcases containing seven handguns between them. But while the security guys continued on to Washington, their luggage went west, putting in an appearance at LAX before being sent back to Washington via Chicago, Reuters said. The bottom line is that four stops later, four guns -- said to be Glocks -- were declared missing-in-transit. The additional 3 pieces checked into the other of the two suitcases were recovered.

At what stage this happened isn't quite clear. American Airlines handled the luggage at JFK and LAX, said reports quoting airline officials who said they were refraining from commenting publicly so as not to hamper a security-related situation. 

Losing luggage can happen to anyone. Evidently, so can losing guns. In February, the Boston Globe reported that Homeland Security personnel had 289 of their weapons stolen from them between 2005 and 2008, or lost by miscellaneous negligence such as leaving them on car bumpers and at bowling alleys. 

But airports are more security-sensitive than bowling places and concerns are deep enough without having to second-guess personnel entrusted with the safety of millions. U.S. airport security has been challenged repeatedly in recent years;  questions were raised again after the attempt to bomb a Northwest flight on Christmas Day. Experts have suggested that U.S. airports adopt Israeli security models.

At least one airport that briefly hosted the bodyguards' suitcases does already work with Israeli airport security experts. When visiting Israel in 2008, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed an agreement contracting Israeli experts to make two yearly visits to help with LAX security. 

And the other guy who's supposed to protect Netanyahu and his country, the IDF chief of staff, also had a few guns go missing this year when two M-16s were stolen from his office, along with his credit card and an antique revolver dating back to the American Civil War. A few weeks ago, months after it had been stolen, the revolver just showed up in a filing cabinet in the office next door. He's had other mysterious mishaps too, such as being spied on for Hezbollah while working out at the gym, and his personal bodyguard being  charged with attempted rape.

Netanyahu worked hard in recent days to ensure a smooth visit to Washington and make sure his meeting with President Obama didn't get ruined by political surprises out of left field.  At least one big threat to his visit was lifted when the Foreign Ministry diplomatic staff agreed to suspend their strike. The workers, embroiled in a long labor dispute, demand their work conditions and benefits be upgraded to match those of the Mossad and GSS. They agreed to help prepare the visit after being told it was an issue of national importance and went back to work, but not before wreaking havoc on various dignitaries' visits.

Netanyahu's travels cost at least $4.4 million a year, according to the media. For this reason, the country is considering buying a private plane for traveling heads of government. Estimated at $18 million to $25.8 million, the plane would pay for itself in around 7 years and after that start saving real money. It might also solve this teeny problem of missing luggage and stolen weapons. Until then, thieves should remember: there's no glick ("luck," in Yiddish) in a stolen Glock.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

Above: U.S. Marine Corps Col. James Cooney fires a 9-millimeter Glock 18 machine pistol . Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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