Photo Credit: US Dept of State / YouTube screen grab
US State Dept. spokesperson Matthew Miller on June 26, 2023

Once Israel enters the US Visa Waiver program, all travelers with US citizenship will be able to travel “to and through Israel,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Tuesday at a briefing.

That may include travel between Israel and Gaza, as well as entering and exiting the Palestinian Authority territories. Travel through Israel to and from Gaza could well open a Pandora’s box of radicalized Americans that may be impossible to contain, however — an issue no one is talking about, at least publicly.


Palestinian Authority journalist Said Arikat, Washington Bureau Chief at the Al Quds daily newspaper, tried to pin Miller down on the precise rights travelers will enjoy once Israel joins the program. He also demanded to know whether Miller believes Israel should compensate PA citizens whose homes and other property were damaged or destroyed by rioting Jewish locals, who rampaged into a village in retaliation for the recent terrorist murders of four Israelis and wounding of four others.

Here’s the transcript of their exchange about a recent Israeli decision to move forward with authorizing the construction of 5,000 homes for existing Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria:

QUESTION: Can I switch topics and – to talk about your favorite topic: settlements. Now both major Israeli newspapers yesterday or today reported that, in fact, the U.S. is not going back to viewing settlements as being illegal. Is that the position, settlements are not illegal?

MR MILLER: The position I stated yesterday is that we have not changed the policy. We continue to view the expansion of settlements as an impediment to peace, made that position clear on a number of occasions, and we’ll continue to do so.

QUESTION: But both UN Security Council Resolution 242 and 336, which you are a signatory on – in fact, sponsor of – state very clearly that settlements are illegal, everything east of the Green Line is illegal. So you’re not subscribing to that anymore? Certain settlements are legal and certain settlements are illegal – is that the understanding?

MR MILLER: I will say that the United States has not changed its policy. I don’t have any announcements on that front. But our views have been clear and consistent that the expansion of settlements undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution; it exacerbate tensions; it further harms trust behind the parties. We strongly oppose the advancement of settlements and urge Israel to refrain from that activity.

QUESTION: What about the sort of legal outposts – there were seven illegal outposts announced I think last week or established by the settlers. Are you aware of that? Did you issue any statement on that?

MR MILLER: We have issued a number of statements about the expansion of settlements in the past few weeks.

Here’s the transcript of their exchange about the visa waiver program:

QUESTION: And lastly, I want to ask about the visa waiver. I know you spoke about this exhaustively, but bear with me, because —

MR MILLER: Not exhaustively enough, apparently.

QUESTION: Apparently not, no. (Laughter.) There’s always something new. Anyway – so the confusion on – I know that all citizens must be – all American citizens must be treated equally and so on upon entry. What about travel within the West Bank? What is happening, because there are checkpoints and so on.

MR MILLER: So we made clear that, with respect to the Visa Waiver Program, that we continue to work with Israel towards fulfilling all of the requirements.

QUESTION: Right. Right.

MR MILLER: That includes extending reciprocal privileges to all US citizens and nationals, including Palestinian Americans, to travel to and through Israel.
QUESTION: What about US citizens who are – whose families are in Gaza? They can travel to Ben Gurion, and if they take the Erez crossing – I don’t know if you know the geography, but —

MR MILLER: So you’re going to get – you’re getting a little further in the weeds than I think I’m able to go at this point, but generally speaking, we believe that one of the requirements of participation in the Visa Waiver Program is that all US citizens and nationals be able to travel to and through Israel.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Jerusalem said in response to a request for clarification on whether US citizens, naturalized and otherwise, will be able to travel through Israel to enter Gaza, and return the same way, that Miller’s response “answers your question.”


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.