The Ministry of Transport has been negligent in amending serious legal lacunae (a gap in the law) prevalent in the drivers’ license laws for immigrants, returning residents and tourists/foreign citizens.
We have received many queries from immigrants, returning residents, and tourists pointing out serious legal lacunae in the licensing laws when they want to drive cars in Israel with a valid foreign license or after converting it to an Israeli license.
Unfortunately, the law which permits driving with a foreign license or converting it to an Israeli license stipulates conditions which do not achieve the aim of the law, and due to their vagueness, are often subject to different interpretations.
These laws’ vagueness has ramifications both in the field of crime and finance. For instance, if a policeman stops a person to check his driver’s license, or if his case is being heard in court, they may invalidate his license and decide he was breaking the law by driving without a license. Even if they find that he didn’t break the law, he may still be charged the court costs involved in his legal defense due to the lacunae.
Due to the absence of clear legal definitions, if an accident or damage occurred to hi’s vehicle and / or to a third party, insurance companies take advantage of a loophole in the law to exempt themselves from paying the damages they would normally have to pay. They claim that the law considers him a person who was driving without a license.
Our organization sent a letter to Transportation Minister requesting him to end these legal lacunae.
These are some of the serious issues that we raised in our letters:
1) Why do tourists / foreign citizens who come to Israel have to convert their foreign drivers’ licenses and pass a driving test after driving a year in Israel? Did their driving a year in Israel cause them to forget how to drive so they must now take a driving test as a condition to getting a Israeli license?
2) Why, when they convert their foreign license to an Israeli one, is it only valid for six months and they have to renew it every six months? in contrast, Israeli citizens are given a license valid for a period of up to ten years.
This discriminatory policy is likely to create the problem of losing one’s license because one did not renew it one year after his license expired, and then one will have to apply for it again with all the onerous conditions that it entails — as if he never had a drivers license. This situation happens not infrequently since foreign citizens tend to be absent from Israel for regular and sometimes long periods which cause them to lose their license if it is not renewed within the short time allowed.
3) Why does an Israeli citizen with a foreign drivers license have to live a year abroad before he can drive with a foreign license during the first year after he returned to Israel, while he only needs to live a half year abroad from the date his foreign license was issued to convert his foreign license to an Israeli on? Why does he need to live another half year abroad in order to drive with his foreign license when this contributes nothing to his driving ability?
4) A foreign citizen with a foreign license can drive in Israel and can convert his license into an Israeli license without the condition of living abroad — neither before or after his license was issued — so why does an Israeli citizen have to live abroad a half year from the date that the foreign license was issued to convert it to an Israeli license?
Israeli Shortcut chairman Zeev Zer avers that these difficulties experienced by foreign residents and returning residents harm Israel's image as promoting aliya. They are often pivotal in people’s decisions whether to continue living in Israel or to return abroad.
It is unfortunate that these issues were brought up dozens of times in Knesset committees but no practical decisions were ever reached. We have heard legal professionals condemning the dismal reality, but nothing has changed.
The transport regulation provision (7-2006) concerning car insurance for tourists which aims to fix the existing legal interpretation causing problems in the courts due to a lack of a clear procedure anchoring the insurance companies’ conduct, is simply throwing sand in the eyes of the public. Zer says that it betrays the purpose for which it was established.
Israeli Shortcut asks the Ministry of Transportation to respond to the plight of these populations. Amending the necessary laws will undoubtedly encourage immigration and bring back Israelis.