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US to Israel: 'Reciprocity is basic condition of the Visa Waiver Programme'

Spokesperson of the US State Department Jen Psaki revealed on Friday that Israel would not be included among the list of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Programme because Israel discriminates against Americans from Arab or Middle Eastern origins when they travel to Israel.

According to the programme's rules, Psaki pointed out that both countries must deal with the visa waiver policy along the same criteria.

"The Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel's border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition of the Visa Waiver Programme," she said.

She also indicated that the State Department would review the information about those Israelis who were denied US visas. Statistics show steady increases in the number of visa refusals since 2009. About 9.7 per cent of visas were denied last year, up from 5.4 per cent the year before.

According to recent investigations carried out by the Israeli newspapers Globes and Maariv, the US has limited the number of visas issued to Israeli occupation forces as well as to those Israelis connected to the security establishment in the occupied Palestinian territories.

US congressional sources reportedly told Globes that some lawmakers have recently been looking into information about alleged efforts to screen occupation officers and other security personnel who may have contributed to "violating the human rights of Palestinian Arabs".

However, Psaki stressed that: "Over 90 per cent of Israeli applicants for tourist visas to the United States are approved. For young Israelis, over 80 per cent of visa applicants are approved for a visa."

In addition, she said that each visa application is treated individually in a way that complies with the country's immigration rules, adding that the US does not have a policy to block any Israeli youth or Israeli military staff from entering into the country.

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