State Dept. Spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday night that Secretary Blinken and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “agreed on the importance of working toward Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program in order to benefit both US citizens and Israeli citizens.”
A source in the Prime Minister’s entourage in the US told Kan 11 News Thursday there’s significant progress in the discussions of a visa exemption for Israeli citizens. According to the source, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had told the Israeli delegation that he issued an order to resolve the issue, and that “there’s no reason why Israel should not be part of the visa exemptions program.”
According to the Israeli source, “There are things we need to do, and there are things they need to do. The technical problems need to be solved.”
Those “technical reasons” are 1. the high rate of Israelis whose visa applications are rejected by the US government; and 2. the fact that Israel rejects many Arab Americans’ visa requests over security issues.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Gilad Erdan has been pushing the visa waiver issue and has discussed it with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. The two even established a joint team to work out the details of the proposed waiver.
“I am pleased with the significant progress made in the move I have led,” Erdan said Wednesday night. “There’s no reason for Israeli citizens to have to waste time and money entering the United States.”
However, the source in Bennett’s entourage cautioned that this is not a development that would see the light of day in the near future. Nevertheless, the issue is expected to be raised in President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett’s meeting Thursday.
According to Price, “Secretary Blinken and Prime Minister Bennett emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Israel partnership and discussed regional security issues, including Iran. The Secretary and the Prime Minister underscored our strong bilateral relationship, and the Secretary reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security. The Secretary also emphasized that Israelis and Palestinians alike deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and dignity, which is important in its own right and as a means to advance prospects for a two-state solution.”
PM Bennett told Secretary Blinken: “I appreciate you taking time in pretty hectic days here in the States. It means a lot. Israel has no stronger and more reliable ally than the United States of America. From our inception and to this day, especially these days, you are always with us, you have our back and that matters a lot to us. I can assure you that you’ll find no friend which is more reliable and appreciative than us.”
Bennett added: “I bring from Israel a new spirit, a spirit of folks who sometimes harbor different opinions but work together in cooperation, in goodwill, in a spirit of unity and we work hard to find common things that we do agree upon and move forward on it. It seems to be working. This is the same spirit that I want to bring to our relationship of cooperation, of goodwill, of friendship. We’re going to be talking about a bunch of issues, primarily how do we fend off and curtail Iran’s pursuit to dominate the region and its race to a nuclear weapon. We will also talk about regional stability and climate change, which is an issue for all of us. I’m looking forward to having a very good relationship with you. I appreciate the time.”