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US Monitors Israeli Border Crossing Pilot For Palestinian Americans

Israeli entry to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program depends on approval of the pilot

A U.S. delegation was in Israel this week to observe border crossing conditions for Palestinian Americans.

The inspections are part of an Israeli bid to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and are taking place during a six-week pilot program launched on July 20 to show that all American citizens are treated equally during security checks—a key demand from Washington.

“A State Department and Homeland Security Department delegation visited Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday and were scheduled to tour crossings into the Judea and Samaria region on Tuesday,” said four officials told Reuters.

A traveler holding a biometric passport is seen at passport control in the departure hall at Ben-Gurion Airport in 2015. US is monitoring Israeli border crossing pilot for Palestinian Americans. The Israeli entry to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program depends on approval of the pilot.MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90.

The officials were there to monitor whether Arab Americans are subjected to “selective grilling” by border control officers.

Reuters reported positive reactions to the pilot program so far, which eases travel restrictions for Palestinian dual-nationals living in Judea and Samaria—allowing them to travel through Ben-Gurion Airport instead of using land crossings with Jordan and flying in and out of Amman.

Palestinians are also allowed to fill out Israeli online forms at Judea and Samaria crossings to apply for entry into Israel as American tourists.

“It was smooth. When they [airport security] find out you are Palestinian, they search thoroughly, but the procedures are smooth. This is the first time for me after the decision. It is easier for us,” Abdul Jalil Juda, 26, a resident of Judea and Samaria, told Reuters. “You can be home in half an hour.”

A traveler holding a biometric passport is seen at passport control in the departure hall at Ben-Gurion Airport in 2015. US is monitoring Israeli border crossing pilot for Palestinian Americans. The Israeli entry to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program depends on approval of the pilot.MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90.

If U.S. authorities deem the pilot program successful, Israeli citizens will be able to visit the U.S. without a visa as of October. The deadline for a decision on visa-free U.S. travel for Israelis is Sept. 30.

“Israelis’ chances of joining the United States Visa Waiver Program hinge on a month-long trial period during which Israeli authorities will offer free passage to Palestinian Americans who are residents of Judea and Samaria,” said Reuters.

Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate

Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager

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