U.S. Intelligence Objects to Visa Waiver for Israelis

Allowing entry to Israelis without visa would make it easier for Israeli spies, the House Judiciary Committee was warned, according to a report in Roll Call.

Israelis stand in line for visas at the United States Consulate in East Jerusalem.
Israelis stand in line for visas at the United States Consulate in East Jerusalem. Curtis Ackerman

Officials in the United States intelligence community are opposing the admission of Israel to the Visa Waver program – aimed at easing the entry of foreigners to the country – for fear that it would facilitate espionage, according to Roll Call, an online news source that covers the U.S. Congress. The Visa Waver program, which already includes 38 countries, would allow Israelis to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.

Congress members and staffers in the House Judiciary Committee expressed concerns that admitting Israel to the program would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the U.S., according to the report in Roll Call, which was based on interviews with lawmakers and staffers who took part in a classified committee briefing several weeks ago. The context of the briefing was the attempt by several congressmen and senators to promote legislation that would admit Israel into the program.

The committee’s chairman Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.) “has heard reservations from the intelligence community about allowing Israel into the visa waiver program because of concerns that it would allow in Israeli spies,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide told Roll Call.

This is the first time that the Americans have based their objections to the move on fear of Israeli espionage, rather than as a response to the discrimination that Arab-Americans face on entry into Israel. In the past, those who objected to Israel’s participation said that Israel would have to allow all Americans to enter the country, without a visa and without regard to the visitors’ ethnicity.

The briefing took place as the U.S. was reportedly considering the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard as a part of a deal to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.