Law Requires Drivers, Taxis to Check Passengers’ Legal Status

March 20, 2014  

The Knesset on Wednesday authorized on its second and third readings a law that codifies the criminalization of transporting illegal workers from the Palestinian Authority within Israel. The law specifies fines and jail time for such offenses under certain circumstances.

The law has actually been on the books for several years, but had the status of an emergency security order, violation of which was dealt with by courts empowered to deal with such violations and with limited sanctions. According to the emergency order, any Israeli who transport a Palestinian worker without the appropriate documentation into Israeli territory, inside the 1948 armistice lines or within the security fence in Judea and Samaria, could be subject to arrest and detention.

According to the measure, now codified in the law, drivers are required to ask passengers for identification if there is a suspicion that they are illegal Palestinian workers. Drivers are not required, however, to check the veracity of the documentation. The law also excuses bus, but not taxi drivers, from checking documentation.

MK Miri Regev (Likud-Beiteinu), who heads the Knesset Interior Committee, said that requiring taxi drivers to check for documentation was problematic. Assuming the driver picked up an illegal passenger inside an Israeli city, “it’s not fair to require taxi drivers to make up for the failure of the security forces who failed to keep illegals out of Israel.”

MK Dov Hanin (Hadash) said that the law would encourage racism. “The only way taxi drivers will be able to guess in advance who is problematic is by looking at the color of their skin, or whether they have a certain ‘look.’ This is unacceptable. If the IDF wants to prevent the entry of illegals into Israel they have much better and effective ways to do this than with this law. It is unfair to dump the responsibility for this on taxi drivers.”

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