Biden Administration Is Poised To Let Israeli Residents Travel To The US Without A Visa
The Biden administration is poised to let Israeli residents travelto the United States without a visa. The Biden administration is expected to grant Israel membership into a prestigious association this week, enabling Israeli residents to travel to the United States without the need for a U.S. visa.
This decision is made despite the continued reservations expressed by Washington over the treatment of Palestinian Americans by the Israeli government.
A statement from U.S. authorities, there are plans to announce Israel's inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program at the end of the week, namely before the conclusion of the federal budget year on Saturday.
This deadline signifies Israel's opportunity to gain entrance without the need to undergo requalification for eligibility in the following year.
The program, which is presently under the administration of the Department of Homeland Security, enables individuals from 40 predominantly European and Asian nations to enter the United States for a duration of three months without the requirement of obtaining visas.
The forthcoming announcement by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, scheduled for Thursday, follows a recommendation from Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding the admission of Israel.
This information was shared by five officials who are knowledgeable about the matter and spoke on Sunday under the condition of anonymity, as the decision has not been officially disclosed.
This final announcement will come only eight days after President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on the fringes of the U.N. General Assembly, and Blinken's suggestion is scheduled to be presented no later than Tuesday, officials said.
However, the topic has been the subject of months of intensive discussion and debate, and the Biden administration has been working hard to reach an agreement to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, although neither leader brought it up in their brief statements to media after the meeting.
After saying they had "nothing to announce publicly at this time," the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security indicated they would make a "final determination in the coming days."
In order to "fulfill the full range of law enforcement, national security, and immigration-related requirements" of the program, the United States is cooperating with Israel.
This will be a major victory for Netanyahu, who has frequently clashed with the Biden administration over issues such as Iran's nuclear program, the Palestinian conflict, and most recently, a proposed overhaul of Israel's judicial systemthat critics say will make the country less democratic.
For its treatment of the Palestinian people, notably its aggressive settlement building in the West Bank, its rejection of Palestinian statehood, and the fiery anti-Palestinian sentiments made by senior Cabinet members, Netanyahu's far-right administration has been the target of recurrent U.S. criticism.
The U.S. decision will provide Netanyahu a much-needed boost at home. The Palestinians will certainly criticize him, saying the United States shouldn't be awarding the Israeli government while peace talks are stalled, and he has been the target of months of huge protests over his judicial agenda.
Over the past two years, Israel has satisfied two of the three most important requirements for joining the U.S. program: a low number of visa application denials and a low percentage of visa overstays.
It had a hard time fulfilling the third, which states that all Americans, including Palestinian Americans, shall be treated the same whether visiting or transiting Israel.
Israel has traditionally established different immigration rules and screening processes for Palestinian American citizens, citing national security concerns. The processes were seen as discriminatory and burdensome by many.
Israeli authorities have generally prevented American citizens holding Palestinian residence permits from using the airport in Israel. They, like many other Palestinians, had no choice but to pass via Jordan or Egypt en route to their final destinations.
Officials say that in recent months, Israel has relaxed its entrance criteria for Palestinian Americans, enabling them to travel freely between the West Bank and Israel through flights into and out of Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.
Israel has also promised to make it easier for Palestinian American citizens to enter and exit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
There are still some questions about the new laws that went into force earlier this month, and the Homeland Security Department plans to emphasize in its statement that it will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that Israel complies. The authorities warned that if Israel did not cooperate, it risked being expelled from the program.
The decision has been anticipated for some time because to the high priority it has received from the Israeli and American governments, but it has been met with criticism by Palestinian-American activists.
The head of the Palestine-Israel Program and senior fellow at Arab Center Washington said:
There are so many problems with this decision. The reciprocity requirement is clearly still not being met since Israeli policy continues to treat some Americans, specifically Palestinian Americans, differently. The administration however seems committed at the highest levels to overlooking this continued discrimination against American citizens to rush Israel into the program before the deadline.- Yousef Munayyer
It's "unclear why the Biden administration seems dead set on offering political victories for Benjamin Netanyahu," as Munayyer put it, "at a time when his far-right government is outraging Palestinians and many Israelis with their extremist agenda."
Israeli citizens who register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization will be exempt from needing a visa for short-term (up to 90 days) visits to the United States for business or tourism.