‘We will outpace the US in our growth,’ Netanyahu says; predicts wave of American immigrants

Israel will benefit greatly by joining the U.S. visa waiver program, which should happen soon and will encourage Aliyah, the prime minister said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed optimism Sunday regarding the country’s expected economic boost when Israel joins the U.S. visa waiver program, which he said his government would enable in the near future.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Arye Deri reported on the upcoming U.S. publication of the visa-refusal numbers for Israelis for the past year, which he said are expected to be much lower than the red line of three percent.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich expressed concern that a visa waiver would lead to large numbers of Israelis emigrating to the U.S. Netanyahu shrugged it off, saying, “I object to your objection.”

Netanyahu compared the expected visa exemption to the removal of restrictions on foreign currency trade, which he decided upon at the beginning of his first term in 1996.

“Take the currency reform for example. It was not possible to take money out of the country, zero. We were told ‘everything will flow out’ – and exactly the opposite happened, money came in.”

“We will not protect Zionism by fencing it off, by imprisoning citizens,” he stated.

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Furthermore, he said,, the program will make Israel a magnet for Diaspora Jews.

The country’s economic strength is such that “we will outpace the United States in our growth,” he said. “We have already outpaced Europe. We will bring about an influx of immigration from the West to Israel to improve [economic] conditions. It’s true that there is also the rising anti-Semitism, but this will not be the only reason for immigrating to Israel. There will be a huge influx.”

Israeli officials have been lobbying for some two decades to be included in the visa waiver program, which already includes 40 other countries.