Commends Blunt for legislation allowing Israel to join visa waiver program

The column (May 2) and letter (May 9) that criticized Sen. Roy Blunt for sponsoring legislation that would allow Israel to participate in the visa waiver program were deeply unfair. It is directly in the interests of the United States to permit our ally, Israel, to participate in the program. Adding Israel to the program will strengthen people-to-people ties between the United States and Israel, and promote business and tourism in America.

What the previous writers conspicuously fail to mention is that American citizens, of all religions and ethnicities, currently do not need visas to travel to Israel, while Israelis do need them to travel to the United States. Moreover, it is simply false to claim that the legislation provides an exception for Israel to arbitrarily deny entrance to Americans who wish to enter Israel without a visa. In fact the legislation sponsored by Sen. Blunt reinforces reciprocity between the two countries by requiring the secretary of state to certify that Israel “has made every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the state of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens.” This provision provides to Israel precisely the same right that America preserves for itself: the right to deny entry to anyone jeopardizing the nation’s security. And the provision requires Israel to grant full reciprocity to all American citizens or risk its status in the program.

If included, Israel would be the 38th country to enter the program, joining most of America’s European and East Asian allies, each of which also retains the right to deny entry to anyone jeopardizing their nation’s security. Sen. Blunt is to be commended for offering this reasonable legislation and standing by America’s one reliable, democratic ally in a region that is marked by instability.

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