Dec 11, 2023 - World

Under U.S. pressure, Israel allows Palestinian-Americans to travel from West Bank

People wait to enter Israel at the Qalandia checkpoint outside of the city of Ramallah on December 10, 2023

People wait to enter Israel at the Qalandia checkpoint outside of the city of Ramallah on Dec. 10, 2023 in the occupied West Bank. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Under U.S. pressure, Israel reversed its decision and is allowing Palestinian Americans who live in the occupied West Bank to enter its territory for the first time since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

The big picture: The Biden administration last month warned Israel it is violating a visa waiver agreement with the U.S. by preventing Palestinian Americans who live in the West Bank from traveling to Israel, Axios previously reported.

Flashback: Shortly after the Oct. 7 attack, the Israeli government imposed a closure of the West Bank for security reasons and barred entry for Palestinians who live there, including more than 100,000 Palestinian workers who previously entered Israel every day.

  • Tens of thousands of Palestinian Americans had unprecedented access to Israel in recent months as a result of the reciprocity conditions of the visa waiver agreement.

Behind the scenes: Two U.S. and Israeli officials said the Biden administration told the Israeli government that if the issue wasn't resolved this week it could lead to a suspension of Israel's membership in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows a country's citizens to travel to the U.S. for 90 days without first obtaining a visa.

  • An Israel official said the Israeli government recognized it was in violation of the agreement with the U.S. and, faced with the threat of losing the visa waiver for Israeli citizens, made the decision last week to allow Palestinian Americans who reside in the West Bank to enter Israel.
  • The decision went into effect last Friday. On Sunday, the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem sent an announcement to American citizens in the West Bank notifying them they may again apply for a permit to enter Israel as a tourist for a period of 90 days.

What to watch: U.S. and Israeli officials said that since Friday there were several reports of Palestinian Americans who were not allowed to apply for a permit online.

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