Israel will take the next stage in its application to join the United States Visa Waiver Program by significantly facilitating travel for Palestinian Americans residing in the Gaza Strip, an official told Reuters on Monday.
According to Gil Bringer, who oversees the Visa Waiver pilot program at Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority, Palestinian Americans from Gaza who meet specific security requirements will be permitted to enter the Jewish state on a tourist visa and depart from Ben-Gurion Airport as of September 15.
Israel’s chances of joining the initiative, which would enable its people to visit the United States without a visa, depend on a trial phase lasting six weeks in which Israeli officials will provide free travel to the majority of Palestinian Americans.
Since the pilot’s July 20 debut, about 2,500 Palestinian Americans have been able to fly into and out of Ben-Gurion Airport instead of using land borders with Jordan.
State Department and Homeland Security Department representatives have been to the Judea and Samaria region’s border crossings and Ben-Gurion Airport in recent weeks to observe whether Arab Americans are being subjected to “selective grilling” by border control agents.
According to Reuters, the pilot program has so far received favorable feedback.
According to reports, Washington has insisted on complete reciprocity and wants all American individuals entering Israel to be treated the same as Israelis entering the United States.
This would encompass dual nationals from adversary nations like Iran and Lebanon as well as Palestinian Americans who reside in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Due to worries about national security, the pilot had not yet covered Gaza, which is run by the terrorist group Hamas. The Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) and Israel Defense Forces reportedly spoke out strongly against integrating the seaside enclave into the plan, according to local media.
According to sources, lawmakers in Jerusalem pushed for the ratification of the stipulation in an effort to bring Israel closer to being welcomed into the program. Bringer said last week to Israel’s Army Radio that the project is “charging ahead, and the expectation is that it will be completed in seven weeks.”
If the trial program is deemed successful by U.S. authorities, Israeli citizens will be permitted to travel to the United States without a visa starting in October. Israel’s participation in the program will be decided by September 30.