YERUSHALAYIM — Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Thursday published legislation that would collect and assess information on passengers entering and exiting Israel in what was the latest step toward having Israel join the U.S. visa waiver program.
A national center, the likes of which are in place in 90 countries around the world, including in the U.S. and EU states, would be established to examine the data.
The U.S. has further demanded the establishment of a database as one of the conditions of joining the visa waiver program. Therefore, should the legislation stall in the Knesset, the visa waiver will also likely be postponed. In accordance with the law, the Israel Tax Authority will be tasked with operating the database.
Airlines will transfer the information at their disposal on passengers arriving in Israel, including their name, passport picture, passport number, among other data. This information will then be transferred at three different points in time: 48 hours prior to the passenger’s flight, upon registering for the flight, and after boarding.
Once the information has been transferred, law enforcement will perform a preliminary computerized examination of the passengers. Should some of the passengers be found to have criminal or problematic pasts or to have engaged in anti-Israel activity, an alert will be sent to either a police, Shin Bet security agency, or law enforcement representative, who will be tasked with deciding whether to prevent that passenger from entering the country.
According to the proposed legislation, information on the other passengers will remain in the database for 30 minutes, after which access will be restricted to certain specific circumstances.
After five years, information on passengers whose entry was approved will be deleted from the database. According to the addendum of the law, state authorities will use the database in the war on terrorism and major crimes.
Additionally, it will also serve to improve civilian aviation security, including border control and efforts to prevent illegal immigration, as well as to maintain public health during a pandemic.
The memorandum of the law was prepared by an inter-ministerial team led by the Justice Ministry’s Legal Counsel and Legislative Affairs Department, in cooperation with the relevant government ministries and law enforcement authorities, and in coordination with inter-ministerial steering teams led by the National Security Council.
The proposed legislation follows a government decision on the matter in 2020.