Taxi Drivers Angered by Colleague's Arrest

Taxi drivers are up in arms at the arrest of Ofer Schwartzboim, the taxi driver suspected of giving a ride to the terrorist who carried out the attack at Geha Junction about two weeks ago.

Eli Hasson, a dispatcher for Balfour taxis in Tel Aviv, said that taxi drivers cannot be expected to know a passenger's background or whether he has a legal work permit. A driver is also not in a position to demand to see the passenger's papers.

Hasson said that a cab driver stops for any passenger who hails him. The passenger gets into the back seat without the driver being able to examine him.

He said that Balfour taxis take Arab residents from Jaffa and other places because that is their duty. He noted that a driver who refuses to take a passenger is liable to be penalized.

Drivers of the Castel taxi company said that their dispatchers avoid sending them to Arab villages and towns such as Kafr Kassem, although there are no regulations on this subject. They said that a cab driver who collects a passenger on his way is taking a risk and does so at his peril. They added that the company wants to protect its drivers, and therefore tries to avoid sending its taxis for Palestinian or Arab passengers.

Sources in the Transportation Ministry confirmed that there are no regulations on driving Arabs and said that this matter is the police's responsibility.

Ministry Spokesman Avner Ovadia said that there is a regulation obliging a cab driver to take any passenger to any destination he chooses, unless the driver has good reason to refuse, such as danger to his life.

This regulation also applies to Palestinians: The driver must prove that he had a good reason to refuse, but if he does, no complaint will be lodged against him.

Ovadia said that the regulation is intended to protect passengers from cab drivers who refuse to take them.