Likud minister accuses Netanyahu of serving foreign tycoons

PM has been sparring for months on internal Likud issues with Katz, who heads the party's secretariat, which is in charge of the party's finances.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
January 24, 2016 19:42
1 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz ride an Israel Railways train. (photo credit: ELIYAHU HERSHKOVITZ/POOL)

 
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A cabinet debate over whether the Uber taxi service should be available in Israel Sunday turned into a lengthy and fierce fight between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Israel Katz.

Netanyahu has been sparring for months on internal Likud issues with Katz, who heads the party’s secretariat, which is in charge of the party’s finances.

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The prime minister met at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week with Travis Kalanick, the founder and CEO of Uber, an application that allows consumers to order drivers via their smartphones.

Uber does, in fact, operate in Israel, and has been offering services in Tel Aviv since August 2014 and in Jerusalem since May 2015, but only as an application for ordering regular taxi cabs, similar to Israel’s homegrown taxi app Gett.

The disruptive service that has made Uber famous around the world, called UberX, lets regular car-owners sign up to be drivers, even without having taxi licenses or training. Israeli regulations ban paying non-certified drivers for rides.

When Netanyahu told Katz about his meeting and suggested using Uber to expand competition among taxi services, Katz said he did not need to be lectured about creating competition, because he did so among airlines, ports, and trains. The transportation minister said there were problems with applying Uber’s business model to Israel, including security concerns.

“What would happen if an unidentified driver from the Shuafat refugee camp picks up a passenger and kidnaps him, and who will compensate people who paid for taxi licenses who will lose business?” Katz asked. Uber says it screens its drivers for criminal records and driving violations.



Katz then attacked Netanyahu, who is closely associated with Sheldon Adelson and other foreign millionaires.

“My job is not to worry about foreign tycoons but to serve Israeli citizens,” Katz said.

Netanyahu defended himself by saying that he barely knew Kalanick.

The battle ended when Likud Minister Gila Gamliel urged Netanyahu and Katz to fight privately and not in front of them.

Though Uber and Gett have been the only app-driven cab services on the market in recent years, a new company called Rider debuted just last week, promising to lower costs further and work with existing cab companies.

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