Shaked: Israel will likely reach targets required for US visa waiver program

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday that Israel will likely reach the necessary targets to enter the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Shaked said on Twitter that Israel’s annual visa-request rejection rates would be published within two weeks, noting that the maximum rejection rate must not pass 3 percent for the Jewish state to be accepted into the coveted program.

“We’ve worked hard to reach the target and I believe that in two weeks’ time we’ll see that we did, paving the road to receiving the waiver,” Shaked said.

“Due to delays in legislation, the process will be completed next year,” she added in an apparent criticism of the Likud party, which obstructed such efforts in recent months.

The Likud did not support legislation necessary for entering the program during the outgoing Knesset due to their refusal to support any legislation brought by the government.

Meanwhile, returning Likud MK Danny Danon reportedly spoke with US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides earlier this month to assure him that the party would be working to advance Israel’s inclusion in the VWP once it returns to power.

Danon, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, reportedly reassured Nides that he will personally push for the completion of necessary legislation during the first few months of 2023, to get Israel back on track to enter the VWP by the end of the year.

The VWP allows citizens of participating countries to visit the US without applying for a visa, a process that takes time and money and whose results are not guaranteed to be successful.

The three required bills granting US authorities limited access to the information of US-bound travelers — as required of all VWP members — failed to pass in the last Knesset due to lack of support from the Likud-led opposition. Nides lobbied lawmakers across the spectrum to get on board with the bills, seen as overwhelmingly popular among all Israelis before parliament dissolved itself in June.

During an emergency session in September, one such item of legislation — which allows the state to collect personal information from airlines about passengers — passed a first reading.

Nides tweeted at the time that he was “excited” by the bill’s advancement: “Another step closer to meeting the Visa Waiver Program requirements. More work still – let’s get this done!”

Then Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon listens to speakers at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

While there is no clear deadline for when the three pieces of legislation must be passed, they must be implemented for a period of time before Israel joins the VWP, computer systems must be put in place, and the US ambassador must submit a formal request for the country to be added to the program.

Israeli efforts to become the 41st country to join the program have been underway for years. They received a boost last year when US President Joe Biden told then-prime minister Naftali Bennett that it was something he wanted to see put in effect, and that he had instructed his staff to play its part in doing so.

Israeli politics told straight

I joined The Times of Israel after many years covering US and Israeli politics for Hebrew news outlets.

I believe responsible coverage of Israeli politicians means presenting a 360 degree view of their words and deeds – not only conveying what occurs, but also what that means in the broader context of Israeli society and the region.

That’s hard to do because you can rarely take politicians at face value – you must go the extra mile to present full context and try to overcome your own biases.

I’m proud of our work that tells the story of Israeli politics straight and comprehensively. I believe Israel is stronger and more democratic when professional journalists do that tough job well.

Your support for our work by joining The Times of Israel Community helps ensure we can continue to do so.

Thank you,
Tal Schneider, Political Correspondent

Join Our Community

Join Our Community

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

You’re a dedicated reader

That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

Join Our Community

Join Our Community

Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *