Palestine-Israel-U.S.: Controversy Over US Visa Waiver Scheme

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By Sanwar Ali:


In a recent turn of events, it is being claimed that Israel will be opening its doors to all American citizens, including those of Palestinian origin. This move is seen as an attempt to secure visa-free entry for its citizens into the United States. However, the decision has sparked controversy, with critics arguing that it is a mere formality and that Israel will easily meet the requirements of the U.S. visa waiver scheme. Apparently, US citizens living in Gaza will not be included in the agreement.

A New Reciprocity Agreement

This major shift in policy comes as U.S. Ambassador Thomas Nides and Israeli President Isaac Herzog signed a "reciprocity agreement" during Herzog's visit to the U.S. The agreement promises equal treatment for all U.S. citizens, regardless of nationality, including those with dual citizenship and American residents of the Occupied Territories.

The US Response

In response to this new agreement, the U.S. has stated it will monitor changes over a six-week period and decide about Israel's entry into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by September 30. The U.S. will also observe if Palestinian Americans and other Arab Americans continue to face disproportionate scrutiny from Israeli security.

Easing Travel Restrictions

Sources reveal that these changes will permit Palestinian Americans living in the West Bank to fly in and out of Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport. Previously, they were required to travel to neighbouring Jordan, cross into the occupied West Bank by land, and face restrictions if they sought entry into Israel. They will also be able to use new online Israeli forms to apply for entry into Israel at West Bank crossing points.

The BDS Movement

A significant aspect of this agreement is that it does not restrict those participating in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement from entry into Israel. This movement calls for a boycott, divestment from, or sanctions against Israel.

The Case of U.S. Citizens in Gaza

However, the agreement highlights a considerable discrepancy in the treatment of U.S. citizens based in Gaza and those in the West Bank. Unlike their counterparts in the West Bank, Americans in Gaza will not be eligible for 90-day permits to enter Israel, violating the Biden administration's pledge to ensure "equal treatment" for all U.S. citizens.

The Current Security Situation

The security situation in Gaza is cited as the reason for the restrictions placed on U.S. citizens living there. The ruling Islamist Hamas group, classified as a terror organization by both Israel and the U.S., governs Gaza. The agreement states that once routine travel resumes, U.S. citizens in Gaza will be allowed to travel into Israel under the same VWP guidelines applicable to Americans in the West Bank.

Controversy and Criticism

The limitations on U.S. citizens based in Gaza have opened the Biden administration to criticism, especially from progressive Democrats. They claim that Israelis are being given preferential treatment in the visa waiver scheme, thereby perpetuating discriminatory practices against Arab and Muslim American travelers.

Looking Ahead

Despite the controversy, the new guidelines for U.S. citizens in the West Bank and Gaza are set to come into place shortly. The U.S. will then monitor Israel's compliance with these guidelines over the following six weeks and make a determination about whether to admit Israel into the VWP by September 30.

Concluding Thoughts

The recent developments regarding Israel's bid to join the U.S. visa waiver scheme have stirred up a storm of debates and discussions. It remains to be seen how this saga will unfold and what repercussions it will have on U.S. - Palestine - Israel relations. helps with US Work Visa: L1, H1B, E2, and O1 Visas

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