Monday’s announcement was immediately condemned by foreign media organisations.
The London-based Foreign Press Association issued a statement condemning the plans as “an utter violation of freedom of the press”.
The statement added that Israeli authorities would be given “unreasonable veto power” to decide who can serve as a foreign correspondent.
In the name of security
However, the director of Israel’s government press office, Danny Seaman, said security concerns arising from the three-year Palestinian Intifada were behind the tough new regulations.
Security agency checks to attain press accreditation for both Israeli and foreign journalists are due to start from 1 January.
“We had to take under consideration that someone could take advantage of this opening to perpetrate some kind of attack,” by using a government-issued press pass to gain access to public officials, Seaman said.
“… an utter violation of freedom of the press”
Foreign Press Association statement
Under the new regulations, Seaman will hand over all journalists’ names for review by the country’s undercover security service, the Shin Bet, he said.
Previously most cards have been issued without review.
Press freedom denial
But he denied the measure would harm press freedom, saying that only in instances where a journalist is proven to be “a clear and present danger to the public or (have) involvement with a terrorist organisation” would a press pass be denied.
Journalists also will have to produce a lawyer’s affidavit and pay a fee for a press pass.
Seaman, whose bureau began denying permits to Palestinian journalists last year citing security concerns, said he hoped the restrictions would reduce the number of press cards issued to Israeli and foreign journalists from the present 15,000.
He maintained that many card-holders had forged their press credentials, and said several were suspected of using the passes to get past military checkpoints in the Palestinian territories to help militants involved in attacks against Israelis.