After a decade of deliberations and tenders, the Ministry of Interior has finally decided to award Hewlett-Packard with the "smart ID card" contract.
The smart ID is meant to allow every Israeli citizen to perform a variety of online functions pertaining to government bureaus, including signing forms using a digital signature.
The project, however, requires the Knesset to pass the identification card, travel papers and biometrics database bill, first.
The bill suggests Israel make the switch to "smart" identification methods, using fingerprints and digital photographs on documents such as identification cards and passports; making them harder to forge.
The bill, which also spells out the guidelines for the formation of a biometric database for all of Israel's residents, passed its first reading in late October.
The Ministry of Interior published several bids for the project, and HP had won it once before, but the controversial nature of the project, which met fierce public objection, along with allegations of it being an unnecessary waste of the taxpayer's money, have stalled it.
HP's win was also contested by one of it competitors, Beeri Print, but the latter's High Court of Justice petition to have the results revoked, was denied.
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit recently noted that there are an estimated 350,000 forged ID cards in Israel, calling the situation "outrageous."
HP stands to supply the Ministry of Interior with five million ID cards, at a total cost of NIS 270 million (approx. $67.49 million) – which the Israeli public will have to pay via a special fee.
The ministry, said Sheetrit, has yet to decide on the way in which the new cards would be distributed.
As for the actual necessity of the proposed biometric database, Aryeh Bar, director-general of the Ministry of Interior, told Ynet that the having such a database is crucial, adding that the access to it would be restricted, that the data itself would be encrypted and it would be placed under the supervision of a special authority, as well as a ministerial committee.
Attorney Dan Chai, of the Israeli Bar Association, disagreed, saying that no Western county possesses such a database. "This is a very narrow view of the circumstances, which caters only to the interests of the some in the government…We will regret it for generations to come," he said.