Washington/Jerusalem - Israel has not met eligibility requirements to join the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), the US State Department said on Wednesday, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected his country to join soon.
Israel is yet to grant free passage for Palestinian-Americans at its airports and into the occupied West Bank, which Washington says is required for Israel to meet the condition of reciprocity to join the programme, which would allow Israelis visa-free access to the US.
Israel “still has significant work to complete on a short timeline to meet all programme requirements” by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said.
The apparent discord came as tension spiked between the allies over a contested Israeli judicial overhaul plan.
Netanyahu said earlier on Wednesday that new legislation meant Israel would join in September, and that Israel would in the coming months address outstanding requirements, which it did not detail.
It was unclear if Israel planned to change its approach to Palestinian-Americans.
“Participation in the VWP requires that Israel provide equal treatment and entry rights to all US citizens and nationals, at Israel’s ports of entries and checkpoints, just as the US would grant such visa-free travel privileges to Israeli citizens,” said Patel.
“This includes Palestinian-Americans, including those on the Palestinian Authority population registry.”
Before Netanyahu’s announcement, his national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said on Twitter that parliament was due to ratify the last of four bills “that will advance us toward getting the US visa waiver for the citizens of Israel”.
That appeared to refer to the Knesset plenum’s approval in final readings on Wednesday of a law setting up a new national immigration database linked with airline passenger manifests.
Washington had previously called for greater access to databases in Israel about its travellers to the US.
Read the latest issue of IOL Travel digital magazine here.