Aside from the initially reported cost of privacy, the upcoming US-Israeli visa agreement may also run Israel into security and legal trouble as the US has reportedly requested that Israel permit Palestinians holding US citizenship to travel abroad via Ben Gurion International Airport.


Illustration Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel, Flash90/Channel 2 News

As previously reported by JOL, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announced that an agreement between Israel and the US is underway to allow nonimmigrant Israelis to enter the US without a visa, under the condition that the US gain complete access to Israel’s biometric fingerprint database. However, a secondary condition, no less dramatic or important to the US administration, was recently reported, in which the US will ask that Israel will allow Palestinian Authority residents with US citizenship to fly overseas via Ben Gurion International Airport. Currently, Palestinians must first cross the Allenby Border Crossing and fly abroad via Jordan or other countries.

Although the US has presented this as a request, there are many in Israel who view it as a demand or even a pre-condition. Regardless, the matter raises serious opposition in Israel, largely for two reasons. Firstly, from a security standpoint as the Israeli defense establishment is afraid of losing control.

US demands access to Israel's biometric database

US demands access to Israel’s biometric database Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Secondly, from a legal standpoint, the concern is that it may harm the tenant of quality – not between Israelis and Palestinians – but rather amongst the Palestinians themselves. For example, if American citizens of the Palestinian Authority will be permitted to fly from Ben Gurion Airport, then the question regarding permitting Palestinians holding European citizenships, may be raised.  However, according to an Israeli state official, from Israel’s point of view this challenging request will not affect the agreement negotiations, rather it only raises another issue Israel and the US will need to address.

In addition, the US has also requested that the rate of refusal be no greater than 3% of all applicants. The original request proposed by an American congressman involved allowing all Israelis to be exempt of a visa, except for those that fall within the “problematic” 21-30-year-old age group, a group that most frequently attempts to immigrate for work. Yet, the congressman’s proposal is only one of several suggested measures that will be tabled for a later discussion.

It should be noted that eliminating the need for a visa to the US will constitute a very significant change for many Israelis. In the meantime, Israel is working to reduce the rate of refusal for Israelis who want to fly to the United States but are rejected for various reasons.