More than 2,000 Palestinian Americans have traveled into or through Israel since it eased conditions for them at border crossings as part of a bid to achieve a visa waiver deal with the United States, an Israeli official said on Wednesday.
Ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline to qualify its citizens for visa-free admission to the United States, Israel has reciprocally loosened access through its main airport and at the occupied West Bank's boundary for Palestinian Americans.
The US embassy has declined comment on the trial period, which comes amid unusually intense strains between US and Israeli leadership over wider Palestinian policies and contested judicial changes in Israel.
An Israeli official said that in the first week of the six-week pilot, 1,100 Palestinian Americans had come through its "international crossings," an apparent reference to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv and the Jordanian border. A similar amount entered Israel from the West Bank.
"In total more than 2,000 Palestinian Americans in the first seven days," the official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters, citing the first formal tabulation of entry data.
The new arrangements mean additional travel options for tens of thousands Palestinian Americans who live in the West Bank.
To obtain the visa waiver deal, Israel, which imposes tight controls on movements by Palestinians and does not usually allow them to travel through Ben Gurion Airport, must show that it treats Palestinians who hold a US passport the same as it treats all US citizens.
Israel is also meant to demonstrate equitable treatment for Palestinian Americans, who have long complained of being subject to excessive scrutiny, and at times denial of entry.