Justice minister hails progress in talks with US on waiving travel visas

US will have access to Israel’s internal database for Israelis suspected of serious crimes.

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November 13, 2017 12:23
2 minute read.
israel passport

Israeli passport [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

 
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An initial deal has been reached with the US to drop visa requirements for Israelis, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced from her Twitter account on Monday.

The deal will likely go into effect within a year or two.

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“We are closing a deal to dispense with the visa requirement.

Since I entered office, we have worked with the Americans to join the select group of states whose citizens are exempt from having to obtain a visa for entry to the US,” she tweeted.

“We found the right balance between guarding the privacy of Israeli citizens and the Americans’ requirements,” the minister continued.

Also on Monday, Shaked explained some of the complex issues she has had to address, in an interview with Army Radio.

Part of the agreement with the US includes setting up a process for the US to have access to Israel’s internal database for Israelis suspected of serious crimes, in order that they can deny such persons entry.

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“The details are complex and the dialogue between the countries has continued for four years, so it will not happen so fast. We need to undertake some legislative amendments, so it could be drawn out over another year or two, by my estimate,” she told Army Radio.

Explaining that the US wanted full access to Israel’s fingerprints database, she said that Israel had declined that much access, but that in place, Israel would quickly provide information about persons suspected of serious crimes.

The amendments allowing the US new and possibly repeated access to Israel’s fingerprints database could reignite the privacy concerns debate over the data, which are kept as part of the national biometric database.

Privacy concerns prevented the database from getting full legislative approval for years, and even when a law was passed in February requiring all passports from now on to be smartcard passports, nevertheless, providing fingerprinting data as part of getting a biometric smartcard was made voluntary.

Around 40 countries, including England, Germany and Japan, have special agreements with the US to avoid the necessity of a visa for visiting.

Questioned about why Shaked and not the Foreign Ministry, which traditionally handles consular issues, made the announcement, the ministry declined to respond.

Since 2015 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to keep the foreign portfolio for himself, he has delegated a number of tasks to other ministers which the ministry would normally handle.

For example, Gilad Erdan, who heads the Strategic Affairs Ministry, is in charge of fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

It appears that Shaked was delegated this issue, or that she took the lead on the issue since part of the compromise with the US involved addressing cooperation between the countries’ law enforcement arms and various constitutional law issues.

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