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Israel grants entry to Palestinian-Americans in bid for visa waiver qualification

Israel announced Wednesday that it would be allowing all American citizens, including dual-nationality Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to enter the country through its international airport as part of an agreement to qualify for a visa waiver program with the U.S.

Israel has pushed for years to secure visa-free entry for its citizens to the U.S., a privilege enjoyed by 40 countries, mostly in Europe and Asia.

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But that request has been thwarted over the U.S. government’s demand that the country provide equal treatment at its borders to all American citizens, including Palestinian-Americans, who are often barred from entering the country through Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport. Instead, those traveling to the occupied West Bank or the Gaza Strip must enter via neighboring Jordan or Egypt.

Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said the regulation would take effect Thursday and will strengthen ties between the countries and “brings us closer to full qualification for the terms of the U.S. government to the visa waiver program.”

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The Israeli statement avoided mention of the word Palestinians, but said the protocol would allow entry to “every single American, including Americans with dual nationality, American residents of Judea and Samaria” — the biblical terms for the occupied West Bank — “and American residents of the Gaza Strip.”

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