The Biden administration warned Israel that it is violating the visa waiver agreement with the US by preventing PA Arabs with American passports from entering Israel, Axios reported on Wednesday, citing Israeli and US officials. The blocking began after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre.
Shortly after the Hamas attack, the Israeli government imposed a closure on the Palestinian Authority and barred entry for its residents, which included more than 100,000 Arab dayworkers. The decision also affected tens of thousands of PA Arabs with US citizenship.
The new US ambassador to Jerusalem, Jack Lew, met this week with Netanyahu’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to protest the ban on the entry of potential Hamas terrorists from Shechem and Jenin.
Last July we reported that Israeli security and legal officials warned the political echelon that the agreement exempting Israelis from an entry visa to the US includes conditions that would damage the state’s security (US Visa Waiver Deal Harbors Security Traps and Pitfalls for Israel).
One of the US administration’s key conditions for ratifying the agreement was that American citizens entering Israel would receive the same treatment as Israelis entering the US. This must apply to “Palestinians” with American citizenship visiting the PA and the Gaza Strip, as well as to Arab Americans coming from countries that are hostile to Israel. The US will not put up with discrimination against its citizens due to their place of residence.
Also, Americans whose visa expires in Israel can renew it if they go to another country and come back. The US is obligated to warn Israel about the planned entry of terrorists and criminals, but Israel’s tough, no-nonsense security officials warn of the glaring loopholes such a turnstile is inviting.
But according to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas last September, “The decision came after Israel agreed to the unprecedented easing of restrictions on movement for Palestinian Americans who live in the West Bank and Gaza and to ease restrictions placed on other Arab and Iranian Americans who want to enter Israel.”
In their recent meeting, Hanegbi told Lew that the closure was imposed for security reasons, and promised to find a solution that would satisfy both the US and Israel’s security concerns.
I suggest ankle monitors. Or age limits: no PA Arab under 70, and no large backpacks or heavy overcoats in summer.
Axios cited a US official who said the Biden administration will give Israel time to work out a solution, but if it doesn’t, the US would have to suspend Israelis’ visa waiver privileges.
It beats being blown up by Hamas suicide bombers, except on Black Friday.