While Israeli ridesharing companies like Juno and Via are prospering in New York City, those same services are not available in Israel. In fact, both Uber and Lyft, the industry titans, are illegal in Israel as well.
To be a little more accurate, Israelis can use Uber to order a taxi. However, uberX, the service that matches users with private drivers is still banned in Israel. This leaves Israelis paying more for car services than those in other Western countries like the US, UK, and Germany.
But, the debate over Uber’s legality in Israel is a whole lot more complicated than just price. It’s about Israel’s economy, security, and the role of innovation in Israeli society. Let’s delve a little deeper.
So, let’s start with the nay. What’s the case against Uber?
I get it. Israelis are some of the savviest buyers in the world. If Uber was legal, Israelis would adopt the car-hailing app like wildfire. Many of Israel’s tens of thousands of taxi drivers would probably be out of a job within a few weeks.
And to make matters worse, because of Uber’s cheap prices, it’s possible that the whole car services industry in Israel could bring in less revenue and ultimately, less tax money. This is especially true in a country that depends on tourists spending on services like hotels and taxis. Simply put, Uber could be bad for Israel’s economy.
And, what about security issues? Israel isn’t exactly known as the most peaceful country on Earth. With taxis, drivers are vetted, eliminating many of the major security concerns. With Uber, on the other hand, anyone with a car and free time can sign up.
These issues are nothing to scoff at, but let’s get to the for. What’s the case for Uber?
Well, let’s start with the easiest issue to solve: Security. Uber has already announced that if their service becomes legalized in Israel, they will work with the government to conduct background checks on drivers and make sure they are carefully vetted.
In my opinion, the biggest reason for Uber is to lower prices for consumers. The high cost of living is one of the biggest issues plaguing Israeli society and definitely one of the most talked about by Israelis, at least in my experience. Israelis are fed up with high prices for everything from food to transportation to housing. If something isn’t done, Israelis will continue to move abroad in droves and Israel’s brain drain will only get worse.
Finally, Uber represents a much larger problem within Israeli society. Innovations, many of them invented in Israel, are reaching foreign markets, but aren’t penetrating Israel. Israelis are incredibly innovative and invent many of the world’s best technologies, yet the country itself remains years behind. Israelis deserve to benefit from the same innovations much of the Western world already is.
I’ve presented a few arguments for both sides of the Uber issue. Now, I’d love to hear from you, the reader. Should Uber be legal in Israel?