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EU, Canada, Australia urge Israel to allow free entry for dual Palestinian citizens

The requests followed Israel's U.S. Visa Waiver Program pilot program, which allowed Palestinian Americans to enter Israel without a visa for trips shorter than 90 days.

A traveler holding a biometric passport is seen at passport control in the departure hall at Ben-Gurion International Airport, May 20, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
A traveler holding a biometric passport is seen at passport control in the departure hall at Ben-Gurion International Airport, May 20, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

The European Union, Canada and Australia have called on Israel in recent weeks to allow those of their citizens who also possess Palestinian citizenship free entry into the country, similarly to the access recently granted to Palestinian Americans, according to Israel Hayom.

The request comes following the launch in Israel in July of the U.S. Visa Waiver pilot program, that allows unrestricted entry into Israel for Palestinians from Judea and Samaria and Gaza who also hold American citizenship. 

The Israeli Foreign Ministry replied that such an option was “out of the question” due to security considerations. The ministry noted that even though restrictions on the entry of Palestinian Americans have been relaxed, they continue to be subject to security checks, a precondition of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) for Israel’s participation in the pilot program.

Israel relaxed its entry restrictions over the summer as part of its bid to join the waiver program. Jerusalem has pushed for years to secure visa-free entry for its citizens to the United States, a privilege enjoyed by 40 countries, mostly in Europe and Asia.

A U.S. State Department and Homeland Security Department delegation observed the pilot program, with inspections at Ben-Gurion Airport and crossings into Judea and Samaria.

The current round of negotiations with regard to the waiver program was launched by then-Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked during the Bennett-Lapid government but is now being led by Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi. 

Hanegbi told Israel Hayom that over the past six months, Israel has met all requirements for joining the program, and that from a professional standpoint, nothing stands in the way of it joining. 

“The Knesset committees, especially the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, passed complex legislation on an unprecedented schedule,” said Hanegbi. He also praised the contribution of former] U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, who he said had “acted in an exceptional manner with us,” adding, “without him, we would not have had a chance to reach where we are.”

According to Gil Bringer, Israel’s VWP project manager, in the first two weeks of the pilot, around 2,500 Palestinian Americans traveled through Israel’s borders and a similar number crossed in or out of Judea and Samaria.

Washington has said it will make a final decision regarding Israel’s admission to the program before Sept. 30. If admitted, then following a transition period Israelis will be able to travel to the United States without a visa for periods of less than 90 days.

A version of this article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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