Why Did Israel Unban the iPad?

Israel has lifted its ban on imports of Apple’s iPad and will start allowing the device into the country as early as today. As well, the country plans to release 20 iPads that had been previously confiscated from gadget-happy travelers since the iPad’s U.S. launch April 3–to the tune of a $12 dollar a day (or 45 shekels) storage fee by Israeli authorities.

Officials initially blocked the iPad from entering Israeli territory as a result of a squabble over the iPad’s wireless transmission capabilities. As PCMag.com reported on April 15:

The move apparently comes after the ministry’s engineering staff could not agree on a means to test the iPad’s compatibility with Israel’s wireless networks.

“The iPad device sold exclusively today in the United States operates at broadcast power levels [over its WiFi modem] compatible with American standards,” according to statement published by the Monitor. “As the Israeli regulations in the area of WiFi are similar to European standards, which are different from American standards, which permit broadcasting at lower power, therefore the broadcast levels of the device prevent approving its use in Israel.”

The decision was met with skepticism in Silicon Valley and Israel, reports The Wall Street Journal, as both travelers and international enthusiasts didn’t understand the technological reasoning for the ban. If anything, the iPad’s wireless power–as a result of its all-aluminum body and smaller antenna than comparable devices–would be less significant than comparable devices. And, indeed, travelers have been importing and carrying devices “tuned” to U.S. standards for wireless transmission for years.

“If they’re paranoid about the iPad then they should be paranoid about BlackBerrys and the iPhone,” said Richard Doherty, an analyst with technology consulting firm Envisioneering Group, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “[The decision] seems to have no technical reason.”

So what, then, prompted Israel to reverse its ban? According to a statement by Israel Minister of Communications Moshe Kakhlon, the ban was lifted, “Following the completion of intensive technical scrutiny.” That’s not the story that everyone’s buying, however–especially Israeli journalist Aharon Etengoff.

“Indeed, it is worth noting that Apple’s Israeli distributor, iDigital, is run by Chemi Peres, the hyper-entrepreneurial son of Israeli President Shimon Peres,” wrote Etengoff in an article on TG Daily. “Clearly, iDigital wants its lucrative cut of every iPad brought into the country – which it will undoubtedly receive when a modified European version of the iPad is approved for import over the next two or three months.”

International preorders for Apple’s iPad begin on May 10.


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Posted in Israel, Politics, Technology

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