US Ambassador Downplays Waiver Breakthrough

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Ambassador Tom Nides signaled on Monday that the issues preventing Israel from joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program were far from resolved.

“Seeing some news in Israel on the Visa Waiver Program. We still have lots of work to do,” Nides tweeted.

He was referring to a report on Sunday in The Times of Israel quoting a senior Israeli official saying that an Israeli offer to ease restrictions on the entry of American citizens of Palestinian descent would pave the way for Israel to join the program.

However, the policy will not extend to the thousands of Palestinians who hold both American citizenship and Palestinian ID cards, the senior Israeli official clarified, according to ToI.

In order to qualify for visa waiver, countries must provide reciprocal privileges to all U.S. passport holders at all points of entry. For Israel, it would also mean allowing thousands of U.S. citizens living in Yehuda and Shomron and Gaza to enter without a visa—a concession Israeli officials have not been prepared to make.

Nides glossed over the specific difficultires in his tweet, adding, “I’m thankful to have a great partner for this in [Interior Minister] Ayelet Shaked. Looking forward to rolling up our sleeves together to help Israel meet all the requirements.”

In the same vein, Shaked tweeted, “thank you for your partnership and leadership on this important initiative. I’m eager and optimistic to work together and to make this change that so many have waited to see.”

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