Israel Awaits U.S. Announcement That It Has Joined Visa Waiver Program

An Israeli passport and a U.S. travel visa. (Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Monday night that it expects the United States to announce this week that it will be admitted to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which would allow Israeli citizens visa-free entry to America as of November.

The deadline for Israel to show compliance with the U.S. conditions is Sept. 30. If successful, it would offer a win for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, whose relations with Washington have been strained over its plans to reform the judiciary as well as over other policies.

“This is great news for all Israeli citizens,” said Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who thanked U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and outgoing Ambassador Tom Nides. “In just a few weeks, Israelis will be able to visit the U.S. without waiting for a long visa process from the American Embassy. Israel joining the Visa Waiver Program is a diplomatic achievement. The waiver will benefit the economy overall and tourism in particular, reducing bureaucracy and costs.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Monday that a final decision on Israel’s candidacy had not been made.

“The secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the secretary of state, will make a determination in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

For admission to the program, Washington requires countries to treat all U.S. travelers equally, regardless of whatever other passports they may hold. In Israel’s case, that would mean free passage for Palestinian Americans at its airports and when traveling into and out of Yehudah and Shomron.

Some Palestinians have protested at Israel’s entry into the VWP, citing what they say are decades of discriminatory treatment of Arab Americans and harassment at Israel’s borders.

There are currently 40 countries in the VWP. Countries are not added frequently, with Croatia being the latest to join in 2021.

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