Will Is­raelis be­come UberX driv­ers?

The Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - NIV ELIS

A bill that would al­low Uber’s car-shar­ing service UberX to op­er­ate in Is­rael headed to the Knes­set Mon­day, but faces tough op­po­si­tion from Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Is­rael Katz.

Though Uber has op­er­ated in Is­rael since 2014, Is­raeli reg­u­la­tion bars its most valu­able fea­ture, which al­lows reg­u­lar driv­ers to be­come makeshift cab­bies. In­stead, Uber in Is­rael op­er­ates sim­i­lar to its Is­raeli com­peti­tor Gett, which al­lows users to or­der cabs via a smart phone app and pay with a preloaded credit card.

The new bill, sub­mit­ted by Likud MK Amir Ohana, would elim­i­nate the ban on driv­ers ac­cept­ing pay­ment for giv­ing rides.

“It makes no sense that in a high-tech su­per­power – the Start-up Na­tion – at the fore­front of global tech­nol­ogy, that the branch of pub­lic trans­port is be­ing man­aged ex­actly as it was at the state’s found­ing,” Ohana said.

But the bill has not yet earned the support of Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, and faces stiff op­po­si­tion from Katz, also from the Likud.

In Jan­uary, Katz and Ne­tanyahu sparred over UberX af­ter Ne­tanyahu met Uber founder Travis Kalan­ick at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos and won­dered why the service wasn’t op­er­at­ing in Is­rael.

Ne­tanyahu backed down, and the next day, Katz told the Knes­set Eco­nomic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, “If the state wants to put it in place, it should de­cide and pre­pare to pull NIS 8 bil­lion to NIS 9 bil­lion from its pock­ets to com­pen­sate the cab driv­ers.”

Taxi driv­ers in Is­rael are put through a costly eight-month li­cens­ing course be­fore they are al­lowed to drive cabs.

Ohana says his bill would in­clude a mech­a­nism to com­pen­sate taxi li­cense hold­ers, and still re­quire rig­or­ous screen­ing and crim­i­nal back­ground checks for would-be UberX driv­ers.

“The com­pen­sa­tion mech­a­nism for taxi driv­ers in the bill is the most gen­er­ous in the world, and en­sures they will not be harmed,” he said.

But he also threw a word of cau­tion at the taxi unions that have op­posed any such changes.

“At a time when we are talk­ing about au­ton­o­mous cars com­ing onto the road by 2020, it’s clear that from here on out, the com­pen­sa­tion of­fer will only be re­duced,” he said.

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