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15 US senators urge Blinken to delay Israel’s entry Visa Waiver Program

US Senator Chris Van Hollen (Maryland-D) speaks at a press conference on the potential national debt crisis at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2023. (Photo: Julia Nikhinson / CNP/Sipa USA)

A group of 15 American Democratic senators urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program.

The senators penned a joint letter to Blinken to confirm that Israel will not be able to meet all the conditions needed to join the coveted program before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen initiated the letter, which was also signed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Brian Schatz, Tom Carper, Jack Reed, Martin Heinrich, Ed Markley, Peter Walsh, Jeanne Shaheen and Tina Smith.

“There is no section of American law that states that a country that enters the visa waiver program can discriminate between groups of American citizens for the first few months of the year, just because that country undertakes to treat all American citizens equally in the remaining months of the year,” stated the U.S. senators in their joint letter to Blinken.

Despite close U.S.-Israeli ties, several Washington administrations have been reluctant to accept Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) due to criticism of alleged or perceived mistreatment of Arab American citizens who feel discriminated against by Israeli authorities.

In July, the U.S. and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding that outlined the conditions for Israel's entry into the United States VWP. The same month, Israel eased travel restrictions for U.S. citizens who are listed on the population registry of the Palestinian Authority (PA), hoping to meet Washington’s demands.

Like other Americans, the new visa would allow this group of U.S. citizens to travel across the Jewish state for up to 90 days, including passing through Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli authorities deny discrimination and usually cite security concerns as the reason for its tight security measures.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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