U.S. Considers Preventing Entry of Israelis Suspected of Violence Toward Palestinians

As part of its examination of the situation in the West Bank, the U.S. considers the rejection of visa applications for those suspected of violence and incitement to commit crimes against Palestinians, even if not convicted in court

The U.S. Embassy in Israel is considering denying visas to Israelis suspected of violence against Palestinians, the Israel Hayom daily reported on Wednesday.

As part of its ongoing examination of the situation in the West Bank, the U.S. Embassy is considering the rejection of visa applications for those suspected of involvement in violence, attempts to intimidate or incitement to crimes against Palestinians, even if these haven’t been convicted in court of any wrongdoing.

The purpose of the possible shift in policy is to encourage the Israeli government to act in a way that would limit potential clashes, and to reduce the willingness of Israelis to participate in violent incidents.

U.S. visa regulations for entry to the country state that those who have committed violent acts or incited violence may not be eligible for a visa, even if they’re not prosecuted or convicted. These regulations have been used sparingly against Israelis, but now the embassy is considering implementing them against those suspected of violence against Palestinians.

At this stage, it’s unclear what sources of information the American immigration authorities will base their decisions on nor if they’ll make do according to complaints from organizations that monitor such incidents. It’s also not clear how the new policy will be implemented in cases that involve an ongoing investigation of Israeli authorities.

In response to the news about the possible shift in policy, the U.S. embassy said on Wednesday: “We do not comment on consular matters.”

The Biden administration is expected to announce in coming days whether Israel meets the basic conditions for entering the visa waiver program.

In an interview with Haaretz last week, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a black box,” adding that after we know whether Israel has met the conditions, the Knesset will still have to complete, by the end of the next fiscal year, the three relevant bills that got stuck in the pipeline during the election period.

Nides currently seeks to realize another demand by the administration, already agreed upon by the parties: to allow Palestinians with U.S. citizenship to land at Ben-Gurion International Airport and to move freely to and from the West Bank, rather than having to go through the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan.

“There’s an agreement, but a new government is about to be formed (in Israel), and I want to verify it… The situation now is that Palestinians Americans hassle coming through Ben-Gurion Airport to the West Bank. This doesn’t work and will not work for us. I think that the new government understands it,” Nides said.