US President Joe Biden’s administration has confirmed it will allow Israelis to travel visa-free to the United States, despite condemnation and concerns over Israel’s treatment of Palestinian and Arab-American travellers. In a statement on Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security said Israel had been designated for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and that Israeli nationals will be able to travel to the US without a visa by November 30.
“The designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program is an important recognition of our shared security interests and the close cooperation between our two countries,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “This designation, which represents over a decade of work and coordination between the United States and Israel, will enhance our two nations’ collaboration on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and our other common priorities.”
The move comes just days after Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the Biden administration was set to admit Israel – a top US ally in the Middle East to the programme in a move Cohen welcomed as “great news”. It also follows a high-profile meeting last week between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, where the two leaders pledged continued cooperation.
However, scores of US and other foreign nationals of Palestinian and other Arab descent are routinely turned away by Israeli authorities, who control all access to the occupied Palestinian territories.