Israel to allow Palestinian Americans entry in bid to qualify for US visa waiver program
Jul 19, 2023, 1:22 PM | Updated: 5:48 pm
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel announced Wednesday that it would be allowing all American citizens, including dual-nationality Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to enter the country through its international airport as part of an agreement to qualify for a visa waiver program with the U.S.
Israel has pushed for years to secure visa-free entry for its citizens to the U.S., a privilege enjoyed by 40 countries, mostly in Europe and Asia.
But that request has been thwarted over the U.S. government’s demand that the country provide equal treatment at its borders to all American citizens, including Palestinian Americans, who are often barred from entering the country through Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport. Instead, those traveling to the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip must enter via neighboring Jordan or Egypt.
Other Americans of Arab origin or Muslim faith say they’ve suffered similar restrictions, as well as U.S. citizens with political views Israel finds objectionable.
U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the U.S. “will monitor not just their implementation of these policies, but their compliance with these policies and compliance with other other facets of the Visa Waiver Program” and decide on Sept. 30 whether to admit Israel.
Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said the regulation would take effect Thursday and will strengthen ties between the countries and “brings us closer to full qualification for the terms of the U.S. government to the visa waiver program.”
The Israeli statement avoided mention of the word Palestinians, but said the protocol would allow entry to “every single American, including Americans with dual nationality, American residents of Judea and Samaria” — the biblical terms for the occupied West Bank — “and American residents of the Gaza Strip.”