Senate Democrats lobby Blinken to bar Israel from visa waiver program

15 Senators pen letter to top Biden administration officials, urging them not to allow Israel into visa waiver program.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

Fifteen Senate Democrats have called on the Biden administration to deny Israel entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, according to a report by Walla Thursday.

The Israeli news site revealed that it has obtained a copy of a letter penned by the lawmakers and addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

In the letter, the senators wrote that they have “serious concerns” regarding Israel’s entry into the program, in particular the limits placed on some Palestinian-Americans who live in Judea and Samaria.

“If the U.S. were to reciprocate, it would mean that certain groups of Israelis like, for example, those living in settlements on the West Bank, would not be permitted to rent cars upon arrival in the United States, or would be otherwise given different treatment,” the senators wrote.

The senators also complained that while Blinken and Mayorkas are expected to approve Israel’s entry into the program by the September 30th deadline, under the terms of the memorandum of understanding signed between Washington and Jerusalem, Israel will only be required to come into compliance with uniform entry standards for all Americans in May of next year.

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“There is no provision in law that provides that a visa waiver country can discriminate against certain groups of U.S. citizens for the first seven months of the program simply because a country claims they will treat all U.S. citizens equally for the last five months of the fiscal year.”

“It would be a violation of law to rush to admit a country that does not meet a key requirement of the program in one year simply because it may not be able to comply with a different requirement the following year.”

Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen penned the letter, Axios reported.

The signatories include: Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin), Tom Carper (Delaware), Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), Jack Reed (Rhode Island), Bernie Sanders (Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Peter Welch (Vermont), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), and Tina Smith (Montana).

Fourteen of the fifteen signatories are Democrats, with the fifteenth, Bernie Sanders, being an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats.