Thu | Jul 25, 2024

Biden administration poised to allow Israeli citizens to travel to US without a visa

Published:Monday | September 25, 2023 | 10:12 AM
President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, Wednesday, September 20, 2023. Biden was in New York to address the 78th United Nations General Assembly. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is poised to admit Israel this week into an exclusive club that will allow its citizens to travel to the United States without a visa despite Washington's ongoing concerns about the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinian Americans.

US officials say an announcement of Israel's entry into the Visa Waiver Program is planned for late in the week, just before the end of the federal budget year on Saturday, which is the deadline for Israel's admission without having to requalify for eligibility next year.

The Department of Homeland Security administers the programme, which currently allows citizens of 40 mostly European and Asian countries to travel to the US for three months without visas.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is set to make the announcement Thursday, shortly after receiving a recommendation from Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel be admitted, according to five officials familiar with the matter who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been publicly announced.

Blinken's recommendation is expected to be delivered no later than Tuesday, the officials said, and the final announcement will come just eight days after President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The leaders did not raise the issue in their brief remarks to reporters at that meeting but it has been a subject of intense negotiation and debate for months as has been the Biden administration's effort to secure a deal to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The US move will give a welcome boost at home to Netanyahu. He has faced months of mass protests against his judicial plan and is likely to come under criticism from the Palestinians, who say the US should not be rewarding the Israeli government at a time when peace efforts are at a standstill.

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