The Knesset Science and Technology Committee approved the ordinances necessary
to establish a biometric identification database on Thursday, at a meeting
attended by only two MKs.
The vote provided the final approval necessary
for the Interior Ministry to begin working on a two-year pilot project of the
database beginning in November, in which citizens will be able to voluntarily
exchange their identity cards and passports for new electronic ones.
Knesset passed a law allowing for the database’s establishment in
Knesset Science and Technology Committee chairman MK Meir Sheetrit
(Kadima) and MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) both voted in favor of the database at
the end of a long discussion in which rights groups opposed the policy on
MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) arrived at the meeting two hours
late, and did not vote.
“Since the law passed, there have been a lot of
mistaken reports that misled the public,” Sheetrit said in the meeting’s opening
“Many countries have biometric databases; what they don’t have
are identity cards.”
Sheetrit also said that many Israelis are already
part of a biometric database, because anyone with a visa to the US must be
“They have the fingerprints of over a million Israeli
citizens. So, it’s all right for the US government to have a database of
Israeli citizens, but not for the Israeli government?” The new biometric
identification cards and passports will include a computer chip for short-range
wireless communication that will contain information such as a photo, date of
birth, fingerprints and a signature.
“There are no mandatory biometric
databases in any democratic country,” Avner Pinchuk, a lawyer from the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel, said during the meeting.
misleading the public,” Sheetrit retorted. “There are biometric fingerprint
databases all over the world. Stop making things up. Most countries have
a biometric database that is mandatory for whoever wants a
Pinchuk pointed out that parts of the US database were
Sheetrit said in response: “Ours won’t leak. You’re just trying
to scare the public.”