AP Reporter Questions Israel’s Admission To U.S. Visa Waiver Program
Accusations that Israel commits horrific crimes thinly disguised as questions come regularly from Said Arikat, Washington bureau chief of Al-Quds, at U.S. State Department press briefings. But on Wednesday, Matt Lee, Associated Press diplomatic reporter and a senior member of the Foggy Bottom press corps, also took aim repeatedly at Israeli admission into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.
Arikat said several times that Israel should not have been admitted to the program, since it treats Palestinian-Americans differently when they enter the country. Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesman, said that there are particular benefits in the program for Palestinian-Americans.
“There are different procedures for Gaza. We understand that. We expect it,” Miller said. “We think it’s appropriate for there to be so.” He added later, “As we have discussed many times from this podium, there are differences, especially with respect to Gaza. We have to remember that Gaza is controlled by a foreign terrorist organization. We would expect there to be different procedures.”
Lee, of the AP, suggested that Miller at the State Department could not really know how fairly Israel treats Palestinian-American travelers if it couldn’t even present specific information about how many such travelers there have been during a trial period.
“I’ve read the 15-page DHS talking points,” Lee said, referring to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “and they don’t address this question, and not only do they not address the question of the Gaza issue and reciprocity, Israel is not even meeting right now the criteria for the West Bank, for Palestinians who are going—Palestinian Americans who are on the registry who are going into the West Bank.”
Lee allowed that there was no doubt that conditions for such travelers have improved. “No one is saying it hasn’t,” he said. “But they’re not meeting that requirement either. So it’s not an issue of whether Israel should get into the program based on it being a partner of the U.S. and a strategic ally in the Middle East. It’s a question of whether they meet the legal criteria under the law. And they don’t.”
Lee also suggested that since Palestinian-Americans who are on the Palestinian registration list need to get official Israeli permission to leave Gaza. He asked Miller if Israeli citizens, who want to leave the United States from Arizona or another place “that politically you think is suspect,” require an exit visa to leave the country.
“Now you are getting beyond my knowledge of immigration law, when we start talking about Israeli citizens here,” Miller said.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate
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