Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East

Grounded in Abrahamic Theology

Seeking a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians
through political advocacy

                          
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On Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 5:34 PM, Rep. David Price <nc04dpinbox@mail.house.gov> wrote:
 

Thank you for contacting me regarding the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 (H.R. 938).  It is good to hear from you.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has borne a special primacy in our foreign relations because of its key strategic location in the Middle East and the common ties of culture, religion, and history that bind our two nations.  While I believe that strong U.S. support for Israel is justified, such support should not be unconditional.  As a Member of Congress, I have been a vocal and persistent advocate for a just and sustainable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that includes a viable Palestinian state. 

As you know, H.R. 938 would amend the United States-Israel Enhanced Cooperation Act of 2012 and declare that Israel is a "major strategic partner" of the United States, expand defense cooperation between our two countries, encourage U.S. assistance to Israel in such fields as homeland security, energy, water, and agriculture, and--once Israel has met certain conditions--allow Israel to join the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows foreign individuals to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business without obtaining a visa.  The program was established to eliminate unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulate the tourism industry, and permit the State Department to focus consular resources in other areas.  To be admitted to the VWP, a country must meet various security and other requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States and timely reporting of lost and stolen passports. 

I understand your concerns about a provision in the Senate version of the legislation, S. 462, that would exempt Israel from the requirement that ensures reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens, regardless of race, religion, or background.  The VWP currently allows countries that participate in the program to deny entry to U.S. citizens only on legitimate security grounds, and I see no reason why an exception should be made in this case.  Should the House or Senate legislation come up for a vote, I will be sure to evaluate it carefully, keeping your concerns in mind.
 

I hope this information is helpful.  Again, thank you for contacting me, and I hope you will continue to stay in touch.