American civil society organizations representing tens of thousands of Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and allied communities are expressing deep concern and outrage regarding the United States’ decision to admit Israel into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) despite Israel not fully meeting the requirements outlined by the law.
In a letter addressing Biden's administration, the signatories said Israel's admission to the Visa Waiver Program starkly contradicts the principles of the program itself.
“Despite being given an answer key to the program's requirements, Israel has yet to fulfill its obligations. And it has had no incentive to do so. Instead of requiring Israel to comply with the statutory requirement of reciprocity, the agreement signed between the U.S. and Israel completely flouts this principle by allowing Israel to implement different entry procedures that distinguish between U.S. citizens based on ethnicity, the IDs they hold, and various other factors. Compounding this, the U.S. government’s truncated evaluation period provided no real opportunity for assessment. To be clear, adherence to this agreement is not adherence to reciprocity,” read the letter.
The Civil society organizations stressed that they have no faith that Israel will fully abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the Visa Waiver Program, especially after being officially admitted.
|Many crucial questions about the decision's ethical implications have been raised, given Israel's long history of discriminatory actions against U.S. citizens and Palestinians in contravention of the program’s requirements and international law. These ethical concerns underscore the importance of not disregarding a country's past behavior when considering such privileges,” it said.
The organizations called upon the U.S. government to reconsider its decision and prioritize the reciprocity, security, and international cooperation principles underpinning the Visa Waiver Program. “The admission of any country into this program must be based on precise adherence to the established criteria and a demonstrated commitment to the program's core values.”
The Biden administration must remember that reciprocity cannot be negotiated or compromised. Concessions that allow Israel to pick and choose which points of entry U.S. citizens can access and implement different entry processes for some Americans not only diminish the integrity of the VWP itself but enshrine discrimination against U.S. citizens into law, stressed the letter.
The US Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement on Wednesday announcing the designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
“By November 30, 2023, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will be updated to allow citizens and nationals of Israel to apply to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a U.S. visa, a step which further strengthens the security, economic and people-to-people ties between the United States and Israel. Following updates in Israel’s travel policies, all U.S. citizens may request entry to Israel for up to 90 days for business, tourism, or transit without obtaining a visa,” read the statement.