Medical emergency charity in Israel accused of spying on officials and rival
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Medical emergency charity in Israel accused of spying on officials and rival

United Hatzalah stands accused of hiring private investigators to surveil health ministry staff it had linked to rival MDA

Scene after a terrorist attack in which three people were stabbed. The attack began on a bus and continued into the street in Rishon Lezion.
(Photo by Eliran Avital/MDA Spokesman/Israel Sun 2-11-15)
Scene after a terrorist attack in which three people were stabbed. The attack began on a bus and continued into the street in Rishon Lezion. (Photo by Eliran Avital/MDA Spokesman/Israel Sun 2-11-15)

They say competition is healthy, but the saying may have its limits, after an Israeli ambulance service hired private investigators to get the dirt on senior Health Ministry officials suspected of cosy relations with the state ambulance service.

On its website, private ambulance service United Hatzalah says it “complements the existing urgent medical service organisations”, but apparently went several steps further in 2018, when it covertly sought information on ministry staff in their contacts with Magen David Adom (MDA).

The revelations are outlined in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, with United Hatzalah members hiring a private detective firm to covertly surveil the then-head of the rescue services field at the Health Ministry, Miri Cohen, and then-senior coordinator of planning and budgeting at the deputy director-general’s office, David Azulay.

Over the course of about six weeks, hired investigators allegedly used electronic surveillance devices while trying to uncover personal relations with MDA staff. MDA and United Hatzalah often fight over funds and prestige.

The conflict got so bad that ministry officials had to draw up a code of conduct between them, laying out boundaries covering issues such as advertising, crew dispatch systems, hotlines, and apps. It fell to Cohen and Azulay to police this.

A source, quoted by Ha’aretz, said the surveillance stemmed from “frustration”, adding that “appeals by United Hatzalah about complaints and improprieties at MDA went unaddressed, like they were invisible, [while] on the other hand, every complaint by MDA against United Hatzalah was met with an immediate response”.

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