Visa Waiver Hangs on Deal for Election Date

By Hamodia Staff

Illustration of the Israeli passport. (Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – A bill that would facilitate Israel’s entry into the U.S. visa waiver program was being held hostage to pre-election maneuvering on Tuesday, according to media reports.

The Likud-led opposition refused to vote for an amendment to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law—a prerequisite for the U.S. allowing Israeli passport holders to join its visa program—unless the coalition will agree to setting October 25 as the date for elections. The coalition wants it to be November 1.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Ambassador Tom Nides warned Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked that failure to pass the amendment would significantly delay Israel joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, according to The Times of Israel.

“I’ve been working around the clock since I arrived to help Israel meet all the requirements to join” the program, Nides said on Twitter. “Don’t lose momentum now. This will help Israeli citizens travel to the US – put them first!”

The U.S. Embassy in Israel contacted senior Likud MK Yariv Levin to request that his party not to vote against the legislation, a source close to Levin told ToI. The source said Likud has not reached an agreement with the coalition that would assure the bill’s passage.

Israeli officials have been negotiating with their American counterparts for several years to secure admission into the program, which allows citizens of participating countries to visit the U.S. without having to apply for a visa, a time-consuming and costly process with no guarantee of acceptance.

The bill in question requires airlines to share private information about travelers entering or leaving the country, including the credit card number used to pay for the ticket, their billing address and where else they might be traveling. It also calls for the creation of a database with passengers’ information, and a Passenger Information Unit to manage and review the data.

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