|King (left), Latham|
In order for the US to permit citizens of a foreign country to enter the US without a visa, that country must agree to certain conditions. Chief among them is reciprocity: that country must allow Americans to enter without a visa as well. There are 37 countries which have been permitted entrance into America's "visa wavier" program, and all of them - all 37 - reciprocate by allowing American citizens to enter their country without a visa.
The American-Israeli Political Action Committee (Aipac) is now pushing legislation that would allow Israel to enter this program, so that Israelis can enter the US without a visa. But as JTA's Ron Kampeas reports, there is one serious impediment: Israel has a practice of routinely refusing to allow Americans of Arab ethnicity or Muslim backgrounds to enter their country or the occupied territories it controls; it also bars those who are critical of Israeli actions or supportive of Palestinian rights. Israel refuses to relinquish this discriminatory practice of exclusion toward Americans, even as it seeks to enter the US's visa-free program for the benefit of Israeli citizens.
As a result, at the behest of Aipac, Democrat Barbara Boxer, joined by Republican Roy Blunt, has introduced a bill that would provide for Israel's membership in the program while vesting it with a right that no other country in this program has: namely, the right to exclude selected Americans from this visa-free right of entrance. In other words, the bill sponsored by these American senators would exempt Israel from a requirement that applies to every other nation on the planet, for no reason other than to allow the Israeli government to engage in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination against US citizens.