A U.S. delegation was in Israel this week to observe border crossing conditions for Palestinian Americans.
The inspections are part of an Israeli bid to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and are taking place during a six-week pilot program launched on July 20 to show that all American citizens are treated equally during security checks—a key demand from Washington.
A State Department and Homeland Security Department delegation visited Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday, four officials told Reuters.
The delegation toured crossings into the Judea and Samaria region on Tuesday.
The officials were there to monitor whether Arab Americans are subjected to “selective grilling” by border control officers.
Reuters reported positive reactions to the pilot program so far, which eases travel restrictions for Palestinian dual-nationals living in Judea and Samaria—allowing them to travel through Ben-Gurion Airport instead of using land crossings with Jordan and flying in and out of Amman.
Palestinians are also allowed to fill out Israeli online forms at Judea and Samaria crossings to apply for entry into Israel as American tourists.
“It was smooth. When they [airport security] find out you are Palestinian, they search thoroughly, but the procedures are smooth. This is the first time for me after the decision. It is easier for us,” Abdul Jalil Juda, 26, a resident of Judea and Samaria, told Reuters. “You can be home in half an hour.”
More than 2,000 Palestinian Americans have entered Israel since July 20, the wire service cited an Israeli official as saying on Wednesday.
If U.S. authorities deem the pilot program successful, Israeli citizens will be able to visit the U.S. without a visa as of October. The deadline for a decision on visa-free U.S. travel for Israelis is Sept. 30.