Israel close to visa waiver agreement with US

Ayelet Shaked  photo: Ilya Melnikov

Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked: We have found the balance between protecting the privacy of Israeli citizens and US requirements.

Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked announced this morning that her ministry was close to an agreement with the US authorities that will enable Israelis to enter the US without the need for a visa, which is currently required.

Shaked wrote on her Twitter account: "Since I took up my post, we have been working with the Americans on joining the select group of countries whose citizens are exempt from obtaining an entry visa for the US."

"We have found the balance between protecting the privacy of Israeli citizens and US requirements," Shaked added.

Closer examination of what Shaked had to say indicates that the day when Israelis can enter the US freely without a visa may still be some way off. A statement of Shaked's behalf said, "Within the next few days, Israel should complete the final paperwork, and in two weeks' time Shaked will pay a visit to the US, during which she is due to sign an agreement in principle enabling Israelis to enter the US without the need for a visa, in the same way as they currently travel to Europe, for example."

It was clarified, however, that implementation of the agreement will require two legislative amendments by the Knesset, and that this process could take two years or more.

The first condition for implementation of the agreement is that the Knesset should amend the law in such a way as to allow criminal information to be transferred to the US on any Israeli citizen concerning whom the US requires it. To this end, a further amendment to the law will be necessary, enabling the Israeli government to reproduce its database of fingerprints of Israeli citizens and to set up a database of fingerprints of citizens who have committed serious crimes.

Shaked's spokesperson told "Globes" today: "At the beginning of the negotiations with the US, they demanded that the fingerprints of all Israelis should be accessible. The State of Israel refused this. Recently, the US Department of Homeland Security and the authorities in Israel reached agreement that Israel would copy its fingerprints database in such a way that it would have a separate database of people who have committed serious crimes. Under the agreement, the US will be able to clarify with the Israeli authorities whether any person is on the serious crimes database in order to decide whether to allow that person to enter the country."

As mentioned, the internal Israeli legislation process could take two years, and it is likely to meet opposition from organizations concerned at the infringement of the privacy of Israeli citizens and at the transfer of private information on Israelis to a foreign country, even if it is the US.

It should be pointed out that similar reports of progress with the US authorities on allowing Israelis to enter the US without the wearisome process of obtaining a visa have appeared from time to time in the past in the Israeli press and media.

It could be that this time the report is true, but if it is, the price of the convenience it promises is liable to be some degree of violation of the privacy of Israeli citizens.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 13, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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Ayelet Shaked  photo: Ilya Melnikov
Ayelet Shaked photo: Ilya Melnikov
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