By Rebecca Piassek
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Last week, the Israeli court ordered Uber to stop operating in Tel Aviv, the first Israeli city in which the company had been conducting a trial of its communal driving services.
Together, Israel’s Transportation Ministry, Taxi Driver Union and rival driving service, GetTaxi, won the court injunction against Uber, arguing that the company lacks necessary licenses and insurance to operate in the country. This notion is supported by the collective regulations created by said prosecutors, which enforce that only licensed drivers are permitted to serve paying customers.
The injunction, officially imposed as of Nov. 29, marks the peak of Uber’s struggle in expanding its market to Israel. Uber had hoped this trial period would allow the company to operate fully throughout Israel in the near future.
The company announced that it would comply with the injunction but is not giving up hope for future expansion; it stated its commitment to working alongside Israeli authorities “to explore how technology can improve our cities with safe and affordable transportation alternatives.”
Yet, according to Uber’s official transportation goals, if the company had to only work alongside Israeli authorities in order to operate in the country, then it should already be considered a legal operation. However, Israel’s Ministry of Transport and Road Safety states its main objectives as follows: “to plan and develop the transport network with emphasis on increased safety, security and efficiency; to provide integrated transport solutions; to ensure a more environmentally sustainable transport system, and to utilize advanced technologies in the operation of transport facilities.”
If the Israeli courts were to consider Uber’s legality based off of this government-produced framework alone, then its fundamental objectives as a business should comply.
Uber’s services, which allow customers to request a ride on command through the use of an app, purport the Ministry’s objectives as written. Using the app increases the average person’s efficiency of transportation due to its ease of use as well as its almost immediate response to customers. It also ensures environmental sustainability through its uberPOOL service, which is a ride-sharing service that in turn minimizes emissions in the country. Furthermore, Uber utilizes modern technologies by serving its customers through free cell phone apps that are accessible to the majority of Israeli citizens.
No aspect of Uber’s business model conflicts with Israel’s long-standing, fundamental transportation laws.
Uber currently operates in 633 countries globally, many of which uphold generally stricter regulations on its people and on its transportation services than the Israeli government does. Uber’s threat to the central government’s control of the transportation industry is very minimal.
The power of unions and local private industry in Israel is evident, as both were able to defeat Uber despite the company being technically legal. However, protecting the more local economy should remain a priority of the Israeli government. While Uber serves as a popular and efficient resource for many around the world, its popularity puts local services out of business, threatening the stability of Israel’s overall economy.
Allowing Uber in Israel would globalize the nation to the point of hurting its citizens. Uber’s lower prices would force conventional taxi drivers out of business or would force them to earn far less money if they became employees of Uber.
Uber is not barred by written law, but rather is barred by the people; not allowing Uber protects the domestic Israeli economy. While Uber is determined to expand into Israel, it will remain a challenge to the company.
It is in Israel’s best interest to maintain local, smaller driving services rather than global companies.
Rebecca is a freshman journalism and government & politics major. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org