U.S. Observers Assess Israel’s Borders for Visa Waiver Deal
As part of a potential Israeli-U.S. visa waiver agreement, a delegation of American officials visited Israel this week incognito to assess the situation at the country’s border crossings for Palestinian Americans. With this agreement, Israelis can travel to the US without a visa. Still, Washington has requested that all Americans be given the same privilege, regardless of their immigration status. This deal might have a significant impact on the tens of thousands of Palestinian-Americans residing in the West Bank as well as those in the US because it could put an end to travel restrictions and harassment experienced when visiting family.
Israel has a six-week trial period starting on July 20 and must show that Americans are being admitted without discrimination. This is a necessary need for Israel to be accepted into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which would allow Israelis to travel to the United States without a visa. The agreement must be decided by September 30.
Palestinian Americans have spoken about the trial period’s early successes. 26-year-old Palestinian-American Abdul Jalil Juda said he could bypass the previous necessity to fly to Jordan and travel by land by returning to the West Bank via Ben Gurion Airport. Although there have only been a small number of Palestinian-Americans travelling into or via Israel during the trial period—estimates range from “high two figures” to “between 100 and 200″—the influence on their ease of travel has been significant.
After years of battling travel restrictions, the visa waiver program allows Palestinian Americans to reconcile with their relatives. However, there have been some issues, as demonstrated by the situation of Nerdeen Kiswani, who, despite the visa waiver program, experienced a delay of about four hours before being permitted admission into Israel. The American Embassy is still keeping an eye on the trial period and is gathering complaints and comments via an online form and emergency phone lines.
The number of Americans of Palestinian heritage has been estimated in several ways, ranging from 122,500 to 220,000. Between 45,000 and 60,000 of those people are thought to live on the West Bank. According to more conservative estimates from an Israeli official, between 15,000 and 20,000 of the 70,000 to 90,000 Palestinian Americans living abroad are thought to reside in the West Bank.
Travel for Palestinian Americans, particularly those who live in the West Bank, could be significantly facilitated by the trial term for the visa waiver agreement between Israel and the United States. The objective of the covert evaluation by U.S. monitors is to guarantee that all travellers are treated fairly, and it is a crucial stage in establishing if the agreement is successful. Both parties will keep a close eye on the trial’s development as it goes on before concluding by September 30.