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Iran politicking gets in the way of visa waivers for Israelis

on 37 Comments


Tuesday was supposed to be the day that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, a bill that would bolster the two countries’ alliance and provide a path for Israel to enter into the visa-waiver program.  But it didn’t happen.

A Republican attempt to hamstring a potential U.S. diplomatic deal with Iran on its nuclear energy program unexpectedly scuttled the vote for now, though the legislation is still likely to pass in the coming weeks.  The lead Senate author of the legislation, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), told Al-Monitor‘s Julian Pecquet she would try to take the bill to a full Senate vote in order to avoid a divisive vote on Iran.

As Foreign Policy‘s John Hudson first reported, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a leading pro-Israel lawmaker who is the head of the foreign relations committee, pulled the bill from consideration on Monday.  The surprising move came in response to an Iran-related amendment Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) sought to attach to the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act.  Corker’s addition to the legislation would have required President Obama to submit a final deal with Iran to a Congressional vote and would allow for hearings on the diplomacy, though it would not have allowed Congress to block the deal if the U.S. agreed to one with Iran.

The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which works closely with Menendez, said they supported the Corker amendment. But the White House did not, and Menendez wanted to avoid putting fellow Democrats in the position of having to choose between the president and AIPAC.

So Menendez blocked it from coming up for a vote.  Writing in LobeLog, Mitchell Plitnick says that the amendment brought to the fore tensions between supporting Democrats and supporting AIPAC and the GOP. Plitnick writes that the move is a miscalculation that “marks another step in the increasing polarization of Israel as a domestic U.S. political issue.”

The legislation has been an AIPAC priority since 2013, and the House of Representatives easily passed the bill in March. The Senate version has been highly controversial, though, because of a provision that would allow Israel entry into the visa-waiver program alongside a big caveat favorable to the country: a security exception that would have received U.S. blessing.

The original Senate bill, authored by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), would give Israelis the right to enter the U.S. without possessing a visa.  But Boxer’s original version says that while Israel would be required to allow U.S. travelers the same visa-free privilege,  the state could bar those who Israel deems a security threat.  Israel’s denials of entry to Palestinian- and Arab-Americans, alongside pro-Palestine activists, are routinely justified by invoking security threats.

Because of opposition from the State Department and activists, Boxer will reportedly drop the security waiver from the bill. As Allison Deger reported here, Israeli officials have said that they will reduce discrimination against Palestinian-American travelers in order to enter into the visa program. But another explosive element has been added into the mix: opposition from the U.S. intelligence community, who say that visa-free travel for Israelis could increase espionage here.

Meanwhile, those opposed to Israel’s entry into the visa-waiver program while it continues to discriminate against travelers continue to ramp up their efforts.  This afternoon, the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation is hosting a panel on Capitol Hill highlighting Israeli border policies that discriminate against Muslim- and Arab-Americans.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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37 Responses

  1. Kay24 on May 21, 2014, 2:23 pm

    Menendez is my senator, and a real disappointment. He seems to be in bed with AIPAC and being used as a puppet, to dance to their tune, and orders. I wrote to him many times asking why he is going against his own President, regarding the Iran matter, and why he seems to be doing the bidding of an alien nation, over our interests, but I never got a clear answer. It seems Israel has bought the loyalty of Menendez and Corker, like many others including Barbara Boxer.
    Today, various organizations like US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and others, will be giving a briefing on Captitol Hill against Israel’s entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, and we can only hope the brainwashed congresspeople, can listen with open minds. We do not need this parasitic, alien nation, given open visas, so that they can continue their spying, and other crimes, congress was warned about:
    “Intelligence officials to Congress: Israel ‘crossed red lines’ in spying on U.S.
    Newsweek quotes confidential briefings to Congress and says Israel’s massive spying is behind the failure to provide visa waiver to Israelis entering U.S.” Haaretz headlines.
    It would be ridiculous after all these warnings, if congress still persisted in giving this nation special privileges.

    • Ellen on May 21, 2014, 3:30 pm

      Kay, both Menendez and Corker are Israel’s Gauleiters in the US. They are co chairs of the Senate foreign relations committee. Neither of them work for US interests. Both are 100% in bed with AIPAC and receive substantial support from the lobby group. Their staffs are completely intimidated by AIPAC representatives.

      The only thing they respond to is money (which fuels election campaign ) and getting elected. When working for Israel becomes a liability, they will drop ’em. For now working for Israel over the interests of NJ and the US works wonders — it keeps the campaign money flowing from Israel firsters and the conflict industry, and it keeps their attack machine at bay.

      Israel is sooo desperate to thwart normalized relations with Iran, it is frightening to think of what tactics will be pulled next now that fear mongering has failed, pushing for an attack of Syria has failed and this latest attempt at mucking up the US political process blew up.

      I imagine for sure that they got Corker to add on the amendment, thinking it was innocuous and would sail with the rest of the bill that had support. And look, it wound up killing the entire bill for now.

      Four representatives from AIPAC met with Roy Blount — the co sponsor of the bill — yesterday. The bill will be back in the fall.

      It is up to the citizens of NJ to publicly and loudly ask Menendez this summer why he is supporting the visa waiver program for Israelis, uniquely without reciprocity for US citizens? And while you are at it, publicly ask him how much money he receives from AIPAC?

      • Kathleen on May 21, 2014, 8:22 pm

        “The bill will be back in the fall” And folks need to be organized and contacting and meeting with Reps full on until then. No to Israel being in the visa waiver program. No based on the hard facts that Israel and Israeli citizens have been caught spying on the U.S., selling U.S. classified tech to China, been connected to the Aipac espionage investigation. Hopefully the opposition to this from the U.S. intelligence community will grow and become even more public. This legislation will come out in August/Sept in some new configuration. Those concerned with U.S. National Security will be on alert.

  2. Palikari on May 21, 2014, 2:55 pm

    Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.

    • Kathleen on May 21, 2014, 3:54 pm

      U.S. intelligence agencies are not going to let this happen. Amazing Senator Barbara Boxer is more than willing to set up a situation where U.S. national security can be undermined even more by Israel. Just goes to show how the so called liberal Dem Reps have been on the wrong (far right) side about Israel for decades.

    • Woody Tanaka on May 21, 2014, 4:11 pm

      “Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.”

      Given the propensity of Israelis to spy on the US, no Israeli should be permitted in the country at all.

      • just on May 21, 2014, 4:44 pm

        Given their history of assassinations/false flags/black ops and Mossad in general…..on top of their grotesque discriminatory practices @ ‘home’ toward sooooooo many;

        HeLL NO to the visa waiver program.

      • Kay24 on May 21, 2014, 4:51 pm

        I totally agree. If this was Iran, or North Korea, that did all the above, you bet they will not be given open visas. Again, this is the US Congress bending over backwards for this alien nation, and saying “how high”. They are such a disgraceful lot.

      • Kathleen on May 21, 2014, 8:23 pm

        Great points.

    • Shingo on May 21, 2014, 4:34 pm

      Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.

      Not if they are there to spy and steal industrial secrets. Arab Americans deserve to travel to the Israel without being descriminated against.

    • just on May 21, 2014, 6:38 pm

      “Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.”


      • Woody Tanaka on May 21, 2014, 7:59 pm

        Because, to the likes of Palikari, they should be able to do anything, without repercussion, somply because they are Jews or because they’re Israeli. No reason other than ethno-religious supremacism.

      • ErsatzYisrael on May 21, 2014, 11:18 pm

        just says:
        May 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

        “Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.”


        Because Zionism has duped Palikari into believing that it’s actually possible to still have your cake, even after you’ve eaten it, and that this is his/her Birthright.

        The only way to keep the above equation balanced is by deserving to have everyone else’s cake.

    • RoHa on May 21, 2014, 7:23 pm

      “Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.”

      Hold on. We have had plenty of Hasbaristas here justifying Israel’s refusal to allow the Palestinian refugees to return, etc., on the grounds that “any sovereign state has the unrestricted right to decide its own immigration policies”.

      But by claiming that Israelis deserve (=are entitled to) visa free entrance to the USA, you are suggesting that there is a restriction (Israeli entitlement) on the right of the USA to decide its immigration policies.

      Perhaps you should check with Hasbara Central.

    • Hostage on May 21, 2014, 8:39 pm

      Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.

      No you need to keep asking for permission. We don’t ever want you Zionists claiming to be in this country by right and not by sufferance.

    • ErsatzYisrael on May 21, 2014, 10:40 pm

      Palikari says:
      May 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      “Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.”

      No hypocritical whining today, about how every country has the right to deny entry to whomever it likes?


      Palestinians deserve to travel and live anywhere and everywhere as Jews in Israel, without any immigration checks.

    • W.Jones on May 22, 2014, 12:33 am


      It’s a security issue:
      Pollard, Lavon, USS Liberty, Rosen, etc.

      And an equal rights one:
      Palestinian-American travelers and human rights activists should get equal access, but are frequently denied or abused.

    • pjdude on May 22, 2014, 11:54 am

      Why? Why do the citizens of the state that is are greatest security threat in the region deserve to enter this country with out a visa? Do you having any reason to believe this or is are Israelis entitled to it because their jews and therefore better than the rest of is?

    • Talkback on May 22, 2014, 6:59 pm

      Palikari says: Israelis deserve to travel to the US without a visa.

      Hasbara troll.

  3. Kathleen on May 21, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Call your Reps and let them know you do not support a yes vote for Israel to enter the Visa Program in any way shape or form. That this program could potentially undermine U.S. national security even more.

  4. Ellen on May 21, 2014, 5:05 pm

    I’ve always wondered why the INS does not raid all those kiosks in malls where the Israelis work and simply ask to check their visas? I mean with all this “homeland” security and stuff. (“Homeland” being a Zionist term proposed by Chertoff for the Agency)

    The attitude of many is that it is ok to cheat the system, especially Americans should be cheated because they are so gullible.

    • Kay24 on May 21, 2014, 5:54 pm

      I agree. These guys at the kiosks can be quite persistent in how they try to sucker you into buying their stuff. Well, I guess we have shown for years that we are gullible, when we keep showering them with aid, weapons, and support, even when they spy on us, kill our citizens, and bomb our Navy research ship, the USS Liberty.
      All that the American support is unwavering.

    • Kathleen on May 21, 2014, 6:41 pm

      It was reported that many of those kiosk folded up long ago

      • Ellen on May 21, 2014, 7:00 pm

        There are still stands in malls hawking Dead Sea skin products. This spring an aggressive sales approach was made to me by a young Israeli in the suburbs of D.C. He told me he was from Israel.

        There was a whole group of young people working the stand. Not sure where the others were from.

      • Kathleen on May 21, 2014, 8:26 pm

        There was an F.B.I. report that somehow became available way back in 2002 or so about these kiosk and Israeli art students making their way into U.S. highly secured energy facilities that were swooped up and questioned. Also held for quite some time by the F.B.I. in New York. The word was out that Schumer went all out in getting them released. Will have to look around for that report

      • Taxi on May 21, 2014, 11:40 pm

        I’ve had the gross-out misfortune of dealing with zio-spies at USA malls a couple of times. Here’s one incident that I reported back to MW several years back:

        Taxi says:
        July 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm

        Below is my second spontaneous confrontation with Ahava in the same Los Angeles Mall (the first one happened some eight months ago I think – I shared that incident here on mondo).

        Yeah anyways, so I was this morning walking around my local shopping Mall when I was yet again approached by an Ahava saleswoman with an israeli accent working out of an Ahava-booth in the main thoroughfare. Soon as I saw the label in her hand I said: “I’m sure your product is wonderful but all the ingredients are stolen from Palestine”. She was taken aback for a sec then shot back with venom: “Only an anti-semite will say that!” I quickly reached for my cellphone and took a quick photo of her, read her name out off her name-tag and said: “I’ll be posting your photo on the net with the caption: Offensive Israeli Ahava saleswoman attacks American shopper in Los Angeles”. She then threw the ‘F’ word at me at which point I went straight to Mall Security and lodged a complaint against her in the strongest possible language. Now suddenly her ‘manager’ (another lady with an israeli accent) arrived at Mall security and proceeded to profusely apologize, offering free product etc. I declined her ‘gifts’ and told her that I intended to tell as many people what happened today and would also be strongly encouraging them to boycott everything israeli and not just Ahava. I also told her that she was earning her living from a paymaster who’s stolen the ingredients of the product she sells, and with no remorse murdered its real owners, whole families of them. She took a step back, aghast, saying: “It’s a free country, you’re entitled to your own opinion”. I finished: “It ain’t an opinion, miss. America’s waking up. Go tell it to all your friends here and back in Israel. I left her tight-lipped and grinding her jaw.

      • Taxi on May 21, 2014, 11:53 pm

        And while I was tripping down the archives of MW’s memory lane, I also found this other example of “aggressive” israeli spies/salesperson
        Taxi says:
        July 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

        I shop a wholefoods sometimes if I’ve missed the local farmer’s market and I’ve recently actually encountered a young aggressive israeli hasbara-humus pusher in wholefoods trying to get people to buy a new israeli brand (The Humus Bar, made locally in Tarzana, LA). The hasbarado with thick israeli accent tried to get me to buy a tub telling me: “It’s israeli, try it, it tastes better than the Wholefood brand, really”. Well I couldn’t believe it and replied that I preferred my humus without Apartheid and preservatives and walked away, straight to customer services to tell a manager. The manager looked concerned at the aggressive (backstabbing) sales tactic and told me he would have this rogue salesperson removed from their floor. I made reference to Apartheid products being unacceptable on their shelves and he told me he would pass my concerns to his supervisors.

        I didn’t follow up on it from there but yeah – wholefoods should be targeted for their green hypocrisy.

      • pjdude on May 22, 2014, 11:58 am

        I’m not pro israel but if that went down exactly as you said you were more out of line than she was

      • Kay24 on May 21, 2014, 7:31 pm

        I may be wrong, but they seem to have renamed, or changed, their products, and the guys that work there, can still be annoying.

      • just on May 22, 2014, 12:46 pm

        pjdude @ 1158– I totally disagree with you. Taxi was a customer– allowed to express her opinion, period. The ‘vendors’ have an obligation to provide a good customer experience, period.

        Thin- skinned vendors should not be ‘out there’.

      • Taxi on May 23, 2014, 3:34 am

        Gee pjdude, thanks for explaining the ‘why’ of your statement. You couldn’t even be bothered to close your sentence with a full stop. God only know why you even bothered to post.

        Actually, in the ‘humus’ incident, the israeli humus barker kept trying to drag me into taking a taste even though I’d declined several times over and was trying to locate my usual brand (Wholefood’s) which she had physically blocked by standing right in front of its usual shelf, and being in a rush, I, at first, didn’t even clock-in that it’s an israeli product (in disguise) – it was really the aggressive push of when she said that it tasted “better than the Wholefood brand” that snapped me out of my rush-zone and made me pay closer attention to her whole (despicable) package.

        I responded in the heat of the moment, dude, and actually, I regret not being even more vocal about it.

        I guess you could surmise that you’re a much ‘cooler headed’ dude than I am. Maybe one day I’ll grow up to be just like you – wow how exciting (not)!

      • annie on May 23, 2014, 6:24 am

        i agree, there’s nothing wrong with telling people honestly why you wouldn’t purchase a product. if it tastes like apartheid say so. you are what you eat!

  5. Parity on May 22, 2014, 12:30 am

    It’s not just the entry of spies that threatens our security. The bill calls for increased cooperation in Homeland Security and cybersecurity. The U.S. government has already given Israel raw NSA data on our phone calls. Under the Strategic Partnership Act, this kind of activity will be be perfectly legal, even harder to end.

    • Citizen on May 22, 2014, 12:17 pm

      @ Parity
      Yes, the bill calls for more and more enmeshing with Israeli security forces. I note that the US mainstream media is not telling the American people about Snowden disclosure that the US government turns all its dragnet phone data over to Israel ipso facto.

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