The best way that I've had Israel described to me, is that it's a third world country doing its damnedest to be a first-world country. And to be fair, all the odds are stacked against my little country.
It's been invaded no less than five times, it's surrounded by neighbors that hate it, and it's currently the only stable democracy in this entire part of the world. That alone is a pretty tall order, even without all the domestic problems from within, with no deposit codes Fair Go at it.
Which is why when it was announced that Amazon was finally coming to Israel, it's national news. However, the arrival of Amazon to Israel is just as likely to leave many disappointed as there are excited.
You see, Israel’s economy is very much a protected bubble. Small business is encouraged and protected, while at the same time being hampered and squashed underfoot by an erratic and overbearing bureaucracy. At the same time, everything is taxed, and corners are cut everywhere.
The quality of local products is bad even by the standards of bad products. If you want to import something, even small items, you first have to pay for shipping, then customs fees, plus the cost of an agent to go pick up your item from the dock, VAT, and so on and so forth.
Not to mention that the Israeli Postal service is notoriously unreliable. Post can get lost for months on end, and even just outright lost entirely.
In fact, it's often more cost-effective to have an item shipped to someone in another country (say, the US), and then brought personally via suitcase to Israel!
A New Hope
That’s why Amazon’s arrival was such a big deal. Amazon is known globally for reliable service, great prices, and their own reliable delivery service.
However, many Israelis are gonna be disappointed, because according to ArutzSheva radio station, Amazon is NOT opening a distribution center (AKA a warehouse). Instead, it’s opening what’s being dubbed a “Local Delivery Service”, and has invited Israeli vendors to start selling through their service.
That’s what this is. Israeli vendors selling through Amazon- not the global market brought in to Israel. Same crap products, with a different face to the service.
In addition, neither ArutzSheva nor Globes financial newspaper were clear on what the “Local Delivery Service” would actually entail. Does that mean that Amazon will at least deliver products reliably? Who knows, because Amazon also signed an exclusive delivery agreement with the Israeli Post, and who knows what on earth that’s supposed to mean. Apparently, this will bring in millions of shekels to the Israeli Post. Whoop-di-friggin-doo.
Amazon itself claims that it will be vetting vendors to ensure that they meet Amazon’s standards for quality and shipping times. But what are Amazon’s standards going to be here in Israel? How is it going to ensure good shipping times and reliable delivery?
It just seems like, to me, that too much has been left too vague at the moment. I suppose, now that the service is here, the only way to find out the answers will be to test it all out.
At the moment, however, if you were hoping for cheaper prices and better products, Amazon got its palms greased to prevent that from happening.
It doesn’t help that Amazon floated the idea of opening a distribution warehouse here back in 2017, but for some reason isn’t pursuing that at the moment.
It’s all very irritating, and I certainly hope that my cynicism is unfounded. Israel, both economically and culturally, really could benefit from some first world competition.
But maybe I'm wrong and this could the best thing that's happened to Israel since the Six-Day War. You never know.