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Israel clears a hurdle for visa-free U.S. travel — but there are strings attached

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks by U.S. and Israeli flags upon arrival to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.
Jacquelyn Martin
/
AFP via Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks by U.S. and Israeli flags upon arrival to Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv.

TEL AVIV — ​As Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Jerusalem, the State Department has announced Israeli tourists may qualify for visa-free travel to the U.S., but only if Israel stops discriminating against Arab Americans.

Israelis were rejected for U.S. visas last year at a low rate.

But before Israelis can travel to the United States without a visa, the Israeli government must agree to share security data about its citizens and allow Palestinians with U.S. passports to land freely at Israel's airport on their way to the occupied West Bank.

"For example, Arab Americans including Palestinian Americans will be able to get on a plane in New York or Detroit and fly directly to Ben Gurion Airport," said U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides. "You will be able to visit your aunt in Bethlehem."

The U.S. says Israel has until the end of September to commit to these policies.

This story originally appeared in NPR's Newscast.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.