Biden administration confirms Israelis can travel visa-free to the US, despite concerns over treatment of Palestinian and Arab-American travelers.
Biden Administration Allows Israelis to Travel Visa-Free to the US
The Biden administration has confirmed that Israelis will be able to travel to the United States without a visa, despite concerns over Israel’s treatment of Palestinian and Arab-American travelers. The US Department of Homeland Security has designated Israel for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), allowing Israeli nationals visa-free travel to the US by November 30. This decision has been hailed as an acknowledgment of shared security interests and close cooperation between the two countries. However, Arab-American civil rights advocates have expressed condemnation and raised concerns over Israel’s treatment of Arab and Palestinian travelers.
Controversy Surrounding Israel’s Admission to the Visa Waiver Program
While the Biden administration’s decision to admit Israel to the Visa Waiver Program has been celebrated by supporters, it has also sparked controversy. The program requires reciprocity, meaning countries in the VWP must allow visa-free travel for American citizens in exchange for similar easing of visa requirements for their own nationals traveling to the US. However, critics argue that Israel routinely denies entry to US and other foreign nationals of Palestinian and Arab descent, raising questions about the country’s compliance with the program’s requirements. Arab-American civil rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, alleging that Israel failed to meet all the legal requirements for admission.
Shared Security Interests and Close Cooperation
The Biden administration’s decision to grant visa-free travel to Israelis highlights the perceived shared security interests and close cooperation between the United States and Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen welcomed the news as “great news,” emphasizing the strong alliance between the two countries. The designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program represents over a decade of work and coordination, aiming to enhance collaboration on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and other common priorities. The move follows a high-profile meeting between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where they pledged continued cooperation.