(JNS.org) The U.S. Congress has approved the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, which, in addition to calling to allow Israelis to enter the U.S. without a visa for 90 days, increases the value of emergency U.S. weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million to a total of $1.8 billion. The bill also promotes more cooperation between the U.S. and Israel in energy, environment technology, homeland security and more.
The bill passed with a voice vote in Congress and must now be signed by President Barack Obama to become law. The bill unanimously cleared the Senate in September.
However, it took about two years to agree on the language in the bill, especially regarding the visa issue. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers it a crucial issue for Israelis to be able to enter the U.S. without a visa for 90 days along with the citizens of 38 other European and Asian nations. However the U.S. government has objected on the grounds that Israel does not allow some Palestinian-Americans and U.S. citizens of Arab origin to enter Israel for security reasons.
However, the U.S. government has formed a working group to help Israel move closer to qualification for visa-free status, while senior Israeli officials said they may allow Palestinian-Americans to begin entering the country through Ben-Gurion airport in the future.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who led the newly-passed bill, praised the Congress and the Senate for speaking "with one voice" on the issue of a closer partnership between the U.S. and its closest ally nation in the Middle East, the Associated Press reported.