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.

The Knesset passed a law allowing for the database’s establishment in 2009.

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 privacy grounds.

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 remarks.

“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 fingerprinted.

“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.


“You’re 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 passport.”

Pinchuk pointed out that parts of the US database were leaked.

Sheetrit said in response: “Ours won’t leak. You’re just trying to scare the public.”

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