The State Department has announced that it will allow Israeli tourists and businesspeople to enter and visit the United States for up to 90 days without a visa, starting on November 30th. This change was initiated by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who made the decision to allow Israel to join the United States Visa Waiver Program. As part of this deal, Israel has agreed to refrain from barring or restricting entry to Palestinian, Arab and Muslim Americans.
The purpose behind this agreement is to strengthen relations between the United States and Israel. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stated that this is "a critical step forward" in the strategic partnership between the United States and Israel, and that said agreement will strengthen the relationships, economic standing and security measures between the two countries. Israel’s admittance into the program benefits the interests of both the United States and Israel: as stated by an administration official, “the steps Israel has taken to qualify for [the visa waiver program] will not only increase U.S. border, immigration and counterterrorism security, it will also facilitate legitimate travel and commerce between our countries and our peoples.”
The visa waiver program is not new: In fact, Israel has sought to be a part of the program for many years prior to this announcement. There are currently 40 other countries that participate in the program to date. However, not everyone has been in favor of this new agreement between the United States and Israel: Some officials have spoken out against the decision, and earlier this month, 15 Democratic senators wrote letters to Secretary of State Blinken expressing their concerns. Despite some expressed hesitation, administration officials of both the United States and Israel have considered this to be a diplomatic achievement that will foster relations between the two countries.