Congress Move To Ease Visa Rules for Israel Hits Snag Over Spying Reports

Lawmakers Shelve Bill Amid Capitol Hill Gamesmanship

Fair Deal? Israelis hope to be added to the visa waiver program for easier entry to the U.S. But the Jewish state’s robust spy program poses a hurdle, along with Israel’s alleged mistreatment of Palestinian-American travellers.
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Fair Deal? Israelis hope to be added to the visa waiver program for easier entry to the U.S. But the Jewish state’s robust spy program poses a hurdle, along with Israel’s alleged mistreatment of Palestinian-American travellers.

By Nathan Guttman

Published May 21, 2014.

(page 3 of 3)

Arab-American activists complained to committee members that while the law requires that American visa policies be met with reciprocal measures toward U.S. citizens, Americans from Arab and Muslim descent are singled out and many times mistreated when trying to enter Israel. One of them, Nour Joudah, who taught in a Ramallah school funded by the United States Agency for International Development, was not allowed to re-enter Israel in February 2013.

“I was told repeatedly by Israeli officials at the border that my American passport was irrelevant,” she said in a statement. “How is this a country that has earned a spot in what is supposed to be a reciprocal Visa Waiver Program?” 


Here too, the initial language advocated by the pro-Israel lobby had to undergo careful tweaks to address the issue of Israeli profiling. It now puts the administration in charge of making the determination of whether Israel has satisfied the reciprocity requirements.

Even with the changes made to the language, the bill would still be instrumental in getting Israel closer to the Visa Waiver Program. But as things currently stand in the committee, it is not clear if and when the bill will be brought to a vote.

It also remains to be seen whether the prospect of easing procedures for Israeli tourists was worth the public and acrimonious debate over Israel’s spying practices and its discriminatory entry policies, which the legislation brought about.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman



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