After years of delays Israel is finally getting ready to embark on a new age of biometric identification. In the coming months, Israeli citizens will be asked to replace their old passports and identity cards with new sophisticated means of identification.
Yedioth Ahronot reported Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will
convene a special ministerial committee on biometric affairs later this month to discuss regulations to implement in the biometric bill.
The project is slated to be launched after the committee approves the regulations.
"The new Israeli passport will have many security features," Amnon Ben Ami, director of the Interior Ministry's Population, Immigration and Borders Authority said.
"You could say it will be the most secure passport in the world," he added.
According to the biometric bill, the new regulations will be tested for a period of two years, during which the public will be able to choose whether to "upgrade" their documents or remain with their old ID cards. More than 300 computer terminals have already been set up for this purpose.
The new passport is effectively an e-passport which includes a short-range wireless communications computer chip. The chip will contain various details about the passport holder including as a photo, finger prints, birth date and signature sample. It will also be equipped with forgery preventing marks. The new certificate will be printed in France.
The details on the actual passport will be printed directly onto the page and not on a sticker which can easily be forged. The passport will also contain various data only visible in ultraviolet light, including an image of a Star of David and Hebrew alphabet sequences.
It should be noted, however that Israel is years behind the world in the field of biometric passports. More than 100 countries are already employing this technology including third world counties. In fact, Israel is the only OECD member state which has yet to issue biometric passports.
The current Israeli passport is considered among the least reliable in the world. A total of 135,000 Israeli passports and ID cards were stolen in 2010 alone. According to estimates by the Immigration Authority, thousands of people around the world are currently using stolen Israeli identities. Many Iranian and Pakistani nationals have been arrested for using fake Israeli passports.
It is estimated that a stolen passport costs anywhere between $500 and $2,000 in the black market.
"The issue of identity theft has wide-reaching security-related, financial and political ramifications," Baruch Dadon of the Immigration Authority said. "Some have tried to scare the public into rejecting the biometric passport but I can assure that the database details will be protected and will not be politically or commercially exploited."