J Street supports the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R.938). This legislation would declare Israel a major strategic partner of the United States, strengthen the United States-Israel Enhanced cooperation Act of 2012, which J Street also supported, and make it US policy to include Israel in the visa waiver program once Israel has satisfied the statutory requirements for participation in that program.
J Street does not support the version of the legislation introduced in the Senate (S.462), for the sole reason that the Senate version would amend the visa waiver program to exempt Israel (and only Israel) from the key requirement that countries participating in the program ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens. J Street is deeply concerned that this provision would– and appears expressly intended to — codify in US law an acceptance of Israel’s reportedly frequent denial, often without explanation, of entry to US citizens of Palestinian, Arab or Muslim origin seeking to lawfully enter Israel or Israeli-controlled territory.
J Street recognizes the serious security threats faced by Israel, and believes that Israel should enjoy the same right as any other sovereign country to deny an individual entry on legitimate security grounds. Were Israel to be included in the visa waiver program under current law, it would still retain the right to deny entry to individual US citizens where it determined it was in its security interests to do so.
Accordingly, J Street urges senators to amend the Senate bill to reflect the language in the House version, which would make it US policy to include Israel in the visa waiver program once Israel has satisfied the current requirements for participation in that program.