Israel has not yet met the eligibility requirements to join the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which requires the country to grant Palestinian Americans free movement at its airports and into the occupied West Bank.
Israel still has significant work to complete on a short timeline to meet all of the program’s requirements” by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, said US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel. If the requirements are met, Israel would be consideration for the program.
“Participation in the VWP requires that Israel provide equal treatment and rights of entry to all US citizens and nationals, at Israeli ports of entry and checkpoints, just as the US would grant visa-free travel privileges to Israeli citizens,” Patel said.
“This includes Palestinian Americans, including those on the Palestinian Authority’s population registry.”
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that with new legislation, Israel would enter in September, and in the meantime, he would address the requirements. He did not elaborate on the requirements.
Travel restrictions on Palestinian Americans
Israel has been trying to join the program for years. The waiver allows foreign travelers to visit and stay in the US for 90 days visa-free, giving US citizens in other countries the same right. The US currently has such agreements with 40 countries.
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Israel currently prohibits individuals registered in the Palestinian Authority’s population register, including those without a Palestinian identity card, from entering Israel without prior permission, regardless of their US citizenship. Instead, they must enter and exit the occupied West Bank via the Allenby Bridge crossing with Jordan.
In October, twenty progressive House lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, arguing that Israel should not be accepted into the waiver program because of its heavy travel restrictions on US citizens.
Other lawmakers argued that accepting Israel into the program would interfere with tourism and national security.