Chairman of the Israeli Bitcoin Association (IBA) Meni Rosenfeld said that “Bitcoin has matured” during an interview at the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference in Israel. He discussed the progress of bitcoin in Israel, and his role in its progression.
Meni’s role in the IBA
Meni was questioned on his role as chair of the IBA, and the goals the association hopes to achieve. He described his role as entailing ”discussion with government to further appropriate regulation, handling the press, holding events, publishing educational material, nurturing the community, and acting as a hub to facilitate collaboration between different entities”.
He noted the goal of the IBA is to maximize the benefits for Israelis participating in the Bitcoin and blockchain economy. He acknowledged that the main barrier to promote further adoption is lack of regulatory clarity. Considering an estimated nearly 1% of Israelis have some form of Bitcoin holdings, this is a major focus of the association.
Bitcoin in Israel
Meni stressed that the 1% figure was speculative. The interview discussed the approximately 100 businesses in Israel that accept Bitcoin, acknowledging, however, that most of these don’t get a lot of Bitcoin-paying customers as most prefer to hoard their holdings.
As the local community of the IBA grew, Meni believed that there was less of an importance in interacting with other Bitcoin associations. He reasoned this because, as ”Bitcoin has matured… the challenges [Israel] are facing have become more unique”.
The impact of blockchain on the banking sector
The mantra on the Israeli banking circuit according to Meni is “blockchain, not Bitcoin”, though he claims this is espoused without a real understanding of its meaning. The banks have a reportedly hostile attitude towards cryptocurrencies, frequently refusing to allow transfers relating to Bitcoin trade. Meni suggested that this issue was worse in Israel than anywhere else in the world.
As the Israeli banks come to terms with the competition that cryptocurrencies pose, some of the banking services they offer are becoming less relevant. But as Meni noted, ”it is not clear if their aversion to Bitcoin is due to fear of competition, or due to legitimate (yet unfounded) concern for money laundering risks”.
The banks have not incorporated any Bitcoin-related services into their technological offerings.
The conference took place on 28 March 2018. Sixteen countries have previously hosted the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conferences since Smile-Expo began hosting them in 2014.