Guardian: Uber met with Netanyahu - promised to "break resistance for their operation in Israel

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by Ifi Reporter Category:Politics Jul 10, 2022

124,000 documents - which reached the British Guardian newspaper and was named The Uber Files. The paper shared the documents with the International Researchers' Organization, ICIJ, and through it with 180 journalists and 44 media outlets around the world including the Washington Post, the French Le Monde, the British BBC, and more. Guards, through journalist Uri Blau, is the Israeli representative in the project.

In Israel, the leak raises the curtain over the company's attempts to infiltrate and the extensive array of connections, pressures, and lobbying it has activated.
Uber currently operates in more than ten thousand cities in about 72 countries around the world and its services are used by about 120 million people. In a significant number of places where it operates, Uber, through aggressive business conduct, has led to a significant reduction in traditional taxi services and even to their complete disappearance. It was recently reported that Uber intends to try and re-enter the Israeli market after its previous attempts - to which the leak relates - were unsuccessful.
Internal e-mail correspondence at Uber reveals the ties the company managed to weave in the years it tried to enter Israel with then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the director-general of his office.
Netanyahu met with the heads of the company, expressed his support for its entry into Israel, and confronted his transportation minister, Israel Katz, around the issue. At the time, Eli Gruner, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, recommended to the company what messages should resonate with the Israeli public and how to deal with the media.
The leak also reveals how a mediator contacted the Israeli ambassador to Washington and the US ambassador to Israel, and asked the two to help stop an investigation in Israel against the company. In addition, it was revealed that a bill drafted by the company itself, The Knesset, almost unchanged compared to the original version. The proposal was submitted by MKs from several different parties, most recently in October 2021.
Uber began its attempts to infiltrate Israel in mid-2014 and almost immediately encountered strong opposition from the then Minister of Transportation, Israel Katz. Katz objected to the apprehension of company members due to his connections with taxi drivers who are considered to have moves in the Likud Center. The solution, according to Uber, went through the Prime Minister's Office. As early as mid-2015, according to the leak, one of the company's senior executives had a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, but it is not clear from the documents with whom exactly.
In order to obtain a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Uber's people exercised all their ties in Israel and after such a meeting was scheduled, within the framework of the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2016, they made careful preparations for it. "I have a one-on-one meeting with the director of the office of the director general of the Prime Minister's Office tomorrow," the then director general of Uber Israel, Yoni Greifman, wrote to colleagues. "He's a friend and I'll ask him what could affect Bibi."
The purpose of the meeting with Netanyahu was clearly stated in the emails: "Building a relationship of trust; gaining his support in exerting political pressure on the Minister of Transport (…) and emphasizing that Uber is considering continuing its path and investing in Israel due to the negative atmosphere in which it is received."
The meeting itself, with the CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick, was perceived by the company as very successful. In Israel, according to the record, he also told Uber's CEO that his transportation minister was driven by foreign interests and his connections to taxi drivers. "We will break the resistance. Let's work in parallel," he concluded according to the record.
On January 24, 2016, a few days after returning to Israel, Netanyahu raised the Uber issue at a cabinet meeting while confronting Transportation Minister Katz. "Israel, you have to take care of the competition," he scolded according to several media reports, adding, "I met the CEO of Uber in Davos."
Katz, according to the publications, did not remain obligated: "Do you say that to me? Am I opening the skies to competition? And the ports and the train? I have no problem with Uber just for them to operate within the law." He did not stop there and St. Netanyahu, who was dealing at the time with publications concerning his relationship with his cousin, Adv. David Shimron: "I am ready to transfer the matter to your care. "Unless you have a conflict of interest in dealing with transportation."
Netanyahu replied that he had no conflict of interest and that he would consider it positively. Katz continued: "My job is not to take care of foreign capital tycoons but of the citizens of the State of Israel. Competition must be fair and beneficial. I have promoted reforms for the benefit of the citizens vis-à-vis the powerful bodies in the economy."
The company began promoting the draft bill on the matter a few months after opening an office in Israel in mid-2014.
"We are skeptical about the ability of this law to pass, but the idea is to pressure the Minister of Transportation to change the existing regulation," Uber Israel Greifman wrote to his colleagues at the company, attaching an English version of the bill drafted by the company. On the Knesset table, three times there was an attempt to pass the law without success, and at the same time, the company hired the services of Gilad Lobing for about $ 6,000 a month, and a public relations company for the same amount.
But Uber's efforts to penetrate the Israeli market have failed in the face of the resolute opposition shown by former Transport Minister Israel Katz. An equally significant difficulty stemmed from a decision given by Tel Aviv District Court President Eitan Orenstein, who in late 2017 issued a permanent restraining order prohibiting Uber from providing transportation services through private drivers.
The company continued to operate its app in Israel and made it possible to order regular taxis through it, an activity that was intended mainly for tourists who know Uber from their countries and hardly affected the taxi market in Israel. As mentioned, it was recently reported that Uber plans to try to enter the Israeli market again.

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