Twenty House Democrats on October 27 called on the Biden administration to keep Israel out of the Visa Waiver Program, in a letter first leaked by Jewish Insider.
In the letter, led by members of Congress Don Beyer and Rashida Tlaib and addressed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the lawmakers cite "ethnic-based discrimination" and racial profiling, adding that Israel does not meet the criteria to enter the program and calling on the US to clamor against Israel on its army's "discriminatory restrictions" for entry into the West Bank.
Israel and the Visa Waiver Program
Israel has long coveted admission into the program, which would allow its citizens to skip the time-consuming and expensive process of obtaining visas. Israeli membership would permit 90-day visits for tourism or business, and would be a catalyst for economic cooperation, according to those in favor.
The US “continues to work with Israel towards fulfilling all Visa Waiver Program requirements, such as extending reciprocal privileges to all US citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans,” a State Department official said weeks before congressional Democrats sent their letter.
Vedant Patel, the department’s principal deputy spokesman, said he was “not going to get into specific bilateral negotiations” between the US and Israel.
“We seek equal treatment and freedom to travel for all US citizens regardless of national origin, but I don’t have any other updates to offer on that,” he said in a press briefing.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides both said earlier this year that Israel could enter the program early next year. But that is less likely in light of the election results.
Israel made significant progress in the past year. US President Joe Biden and Blinken mentioned that the administration intended to push for a visa waiver for Israel when then-prime minister Naftali Bennett was about to visit Washington in September 2021.
Haley Cohen and Omri Nahmias contributed to this report