US House progressives sign letter against Israel joining visa waiver programme

US House progressives sign letter against Israel joining visa waiver programme
Twenty progressive members of the House have signed a letter written to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing their concerns on the unfair treatment of US citizens of Palestinian descent by Israel as it tries to join the visa waiver programme.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
01 November, 2022
Hebron, like the rest of the occupied West Bank, is currently severely restricted for US citizens of Palestinian descent. [Getty]

Twenty House progressives have signed a letter arguing that Israel has not met the qualifications for the visa waiver programme, Jewish Insider has reported.

The letter, initiated by Representative Don Beyer of northern Virginia, wrote to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing concerns about discriminatory treatment by Israeli authorities of US citizens who wish to travel to the occupied territories. This, the letter notes, goes against the principle of reciprocity that should exist for Israel to qualify for the programme.

The letter notes that Israel's Coordinating Office for Government Affairs issued new regulations this year that put into place discriminatory practices.

These include: US dual citizens from five countries will not be able to visit the occupied West Bank; Palestinians with US citizenship may be forced to provide ID numbers of friends and family; foreign spouses of Palestinians are already obligated to put up a US$20,000 bond; and, US visitors could be subject to arbitrary screening that would deny them entry if their views on Israel are deemed unacceptable.

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"There is currently no real way to determine how significant a problem discrimination against US nationals of citizens is, or to what extent Israel is not in compliance with VWP regulations extending reciprocal travel privileges to Americans," the letter reads.

"We request that the State Department develop a reporting mechanism, including a hotline, to tally the number of Americans who are impacted by Israel's travel restrictions, including those turned away at Israel controlled ports of entry and those that are denied visas when applying in advance."

The letter went on to emphasise the generous aid that Israel receives from the US. It also noted that the Department of Homeland Security has said that Israel does not meet the requirements of the visa waiver programme.