Protesters holding posters during their rally. Picture featured for U.S.'s latest announcement about the inclusion of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program.
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U.S. Welcomes Israel Into the Visa Waiver Program

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that Israel will now be included in the nation’s Visa Waiver Program, allowing Israeli citizens to enter the United States without a visa. In reciprocity, Israel will allow American citizens to travel to Israel without a visa.

Officials stated that this agreement will be implemented by November 30th, permitting Israeli citizens to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days. The United States asserts that this reciprocal arrangement serves the U.S. and Israel’s national interests.

But what does this mean for Palestinians? 

The negotiation for the deal requested Israel to extend visa-free entry to American citizens, including Palestinian Americans. Given the profound and complex history between Palestine and Israel, including Palestinian Americans is significant, as individuals identifying as such often face difficulties traveling to Palestine due to travel restrictions.

The United States and Israel agreed to a pilot period in July 2023. Israel has allowed over 100,000 American citizens, including Palestinian Americans, to enter the country without a visa.

It is important to note that Israel’s inclusion in the U.S. visa waiver program — a status it had been aspiring to for decades — was conditioned on the country’s treatment of Palestinian Americans. It’s no secret that Palestinians have historically faced challenges when traveling into and out of the West Bank and Gaza, territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

During a pilot effort over the summer, Israel modified its travel restrictions and regulations to demonstrate its eligibility for the U.S. government’s visa waiver program.

However, earlier this month, a group of Democratic senators urged the U.S. government to deny Israel’s entry into the program, citing ongoing unfair treatment of Palestinian Americans traveling to Israel.

When the agreement was officially announced, many Palestinian Americans expressed disappointment, as it was no surprise that the United States would admit Israel into the Visa Waiver Program.

This move was especially disheartening given that the deal hinged on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Americans, even as Israel continues to occupy Palestine and incite violence amongst Palestinians in their homeland. Do better, America.

Maisha is a writer and educator based in New York City.