Netanyahu Sees Israel Joining U.S. Visa Waiver Program in Sept.


Israel expects to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program in September, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, after Israeli legislation of measures required by Washington.

Netanyahu thanked the chairman of the coalition, MK Ofir Katz, National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana for “promoting the project quickly and efficiently.”

​In its sitting on Tuesday, the Knesset Plenum approved in second and third readings a bill that allows the authorities of the State of Israel to make use of information received from a recognized agency in the United States, by comparing fingerprint data to data contained in the authorities’ database. The information will be received in accordance with the arrangements laid out in the proposal (the PCSC agreement and the EBSA memorandum, according to the proposed mechanism, which will allow a comparison to be made by means of a computerized system with data in the police’s database).

In addition, the bill proposes to empower the Israel Police to transfer to a recognized foreign agency that has requested it, identifying details of a person that are linked to the fingerprint data associated with him— in the event that specific conditions stipulated in the proposed arrangement are met. Finally, it is proposed to impose on the minister of national security a requirement to report on numerical data entered by force of this law.

For the past few years, the Government of Israel has been working to join the U.S. Government’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which enables entry to the United States without a visa. According to U.S. Federal law, one of the conditions for a state to join the VWP is signing an arrangement for increased cooperation between the state joining the VWP and the United States with regard to threats to the security and public well-being in the U.S.

This condition joins a series of additional requirements that the United States poses for states that wish to join the VWP. For the purpose of meeting this condition, the Government of Israel was required to sign with the U.S. Government an Agreement on Enhancing Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Serious Crime and Terrorism (PCSC), as well as a Memorandum of Cooperation on Enhancing Border Security Cooperation through the Exchange of Information (EBSA).

For several years, the Government of Israel has been conducting negotiations with the U.S. Government for reaching the arrangements in question. As detailed in each of the arrangements or their ancillary documents, implementation of the EBSA memorandum will begin, or the PCSC agreement will go into effect, only after each side has notified the other that the internal steps required for this purpose have been completed. Along with this, the United States will notify Israel that Israel has completed the fulfillment of the other requirements for its inclusion in the VWP, including the necessary legislative amendments.

The arrangements create an orderly mechanism for exchange of information between the sides, based on queries and comparison of biometric fingerprints held by one party to the arrangements with the state databases of the other party, and delivering information from these databases under various conditions and restrictions stipulated in the arrangements.

The explanatory notes to the bill state that “with the aim of enabling implementation of the arrangements, and the method of delivery of the information under these arrangements, it is proposed to amend the law and establish in it a dedicated mechanism for exchange of information in accordance with the arrangements, and to make a specific revision in the Criminal Information and Rehabilitation of Offenders Law. The arrangement proposed in this bill is worded in a narrow fashion, in order to reduce as much​ as possible the harm to the privacy of Israel’s citizens, while stipulating explicitly that the deviation from the restrictions currently laid out in the law will be made for the purpose of implementing the arrangements.”​

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