Starting from November 30, Israelis will be granted visa-free entry into the United States.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration made an announcement stating that Israel will be included in the United States Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This move permits Israeli citizens to enter the United States without requiring a visa, effective from November 30, as confirmed by officials.

This decision is seen as a favorable development for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government, which has experienced strained relations with Washington due to its judicial reforms and policies concerning the Palestinians.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized that this announcement will further enhance the security, economic, and interpersonal connections between the United States and Israel.

Moreover, Palestinian Americans residing both in the West Bank and the United States will now have the opportunity to enter Israel without a visa, facilitating easier travel to and from Ben Gurion airport, as per the United States’ statement.

To be eligible for the VWP, which permits stays of up to 90 days without a visa, countries must meet specific criteria related to counterterrorism, law enforcement, immigration enforcement, document security, and border management. Additionally, these countries are required to treat all U.S. travelers equally, regardless of their other citizenships.

In the case of Israel, this entails granting Palestinian Americans free access at Ben Gurion airport.

A number of Palestinians have voiced their opposition to Israel’s inclusion in the VWP, pointing to what they perceive as years of unequal treatment of Arab Americans and instances of harassment at Israeli border crossings.

During a trial period that began on July 20, Israel relaxed entry procedures for Palestinian Americans at its borders and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Estimates suggest that there are between 45,000 and 60,000 Palestinian Americans residing in the West Bank, as per a U.S. official’s assessment. However, an Israeli official provided a lower figure, stating that out of the 70,000 to 90,000 Palestinian Americans worldwide, 15,000 to 20,000 are residents of the West Bank.

Before this decision, the VWP included 40 countries, and new additions were infrequent, with Croatia being the most recent inclusion in 2021.

A group of four Democratic U.S. senators, including Chris Van Hollen, declared on Wednesday that Israel has not met the requirements ensuring equal treatment of all American travelers.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the announcement “will improve the freedom of movement for U.S. citizens, including those living in the Palestinian Territories or traveling to and from them.”

On Tuesday, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to prevent Israel’s inclusion in the program.

A U.S. judge in Detroit rejected an emergency motion on procedural grounds, citing inadequate notice to the department about the lawsuit.

Source: United States allows Israelis to enter visa-free from November 30 (