US lawmakers draft bill to stop Maldives travel ban on Israelis

US lawmakers draft bill to stop Maldives travel ban on Israelis
US legislators are developing a bill known as the Protecting Allied Travel Here (PATH) Act, designed to stop the Maldives from banning Israeli passport holders.
2 min read
06 June, 2024
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz attend a vigil for Israel on the steps of the US Capitol Building on October 12, 2023 [Getty]

US lawmakers are reportedly drafting a bill that would stop the Maldives from initiating a travel ban on Israeli passport holders in response to the war on Gaza. 

According to US news outlet Axios, US Democrat Congressman Josh Gottheimer is leading efforts against the ban of Israeli nationals from the Indian Ocean tourist hotspot.

This comes after Sunday’s announcement by Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu, delivered in a statement via his official spokesperson.

Muizzu said that he had "resolved to impose a ban on Israeli passports", without confirming when the law would take effect. Muizzu also announced a national fundraising campaign called "Maldivians in Solidarity with Palestine". 

Axios reported that Gottheimer, known to be one of Congress’s staunchest pro-Israel advocates, is gaining bipartisan support in developing the legislation which will be called the Protecting Allied Travel Here (PATH) Act. 

The legislation could condition US aid to the Maldives on continued permission for Israelis to visit the country.

In a statement, he told Axios that "taxpayer dollars shouldn't be sent to a foreign nation that has banned all Israeli citizens - one of our greatest democratic allies", adding that the move was "antisemitic". 

The New Arab approached representatives for the Maldives for comment.

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Following the proposed ban, Israel's foreign ministry issued recommendations urging its citizens to avoid travel to the Maldives. 

"For Israeli citizens already in the country, it is recommended to consider leaving, because if they find themselves in distress for any reason, it will be difficult for us to assist," the ministry said in a statement. 

The Maldives had lifted a previous ban on Israeli tourists in the early 1990s and moved to establish relations with Israel in 2010. 

However, normalisation attempts were scuttled following the toppling of President Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012. 

Opposition parties and government allies in the Maldives have been putting pressure on Muizzu to ban Israelis in order to protest against the Gaza war. 

Official data showed the number of Israelis visiting the Maldives dropped to 528 in the first four months of this year, down 88 percent compared to the corresponding period last year. 

Israel's offensive has killed at least 36,654 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the territory's health ministry. 

Agencies contributed to this report.