The US-Israel Visa Waiver Program Agreement: Assessing the Terms and Implications


Maya Berry

Executive Director

Arab American Institute (AAI)

Zaha Hassan


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Jessica Montell

Executive Director

Hamoked - Center for the Defence of the Individual

Adam Shapiro

Director of Advocacy for Israel-Palestine

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN)


Yousef Munayyer

Head of Palestine/Israel Program and Senior Fellow

Arab Center Washington DC

About the Webinar

The United States and Israel announced this week that they have reached a mutual understanding on a process that would facilitate Israel’s acceptance into the United States Visa Waiver Program. The program, which Israel has long sought to join, includes 40 mostly European nations and permits their nationals to receive a 90-day visa upon arrival in the US. One of the main reasons Israel has historically failed to meet the standards for this program is its inability to adhere to the program’s reciprocity requirements, due to its discrimination against Palestinian Americans at entry points and checkpoints in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The new understanding reached by the US and Israel was billed by both nations as a pathway to addressing the reciprocity requirement, but the details of the agreement show that Palestinian Americans will still be treated differently.Will the United States accept this unequal treatment of Palestinians as an acceptable form of reciprocity? Why is this happening now? What is the timeline for the agreement and its implementation? What are the implications of this agreement for all involved, and especially for Palestinians travelling to and through Israeli-controlled access points? How would this impact the United States domestically and its relations with Israel and the Palestinians?

Arab Center Washington DC convened a panel of experts to discuss the specific terms, timeline, and implications of the agreement.” Panelists were Maya Berry, Executive Director of the Arab American Institute; Zaha Hassan, Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Jessica Montell, Executive Director of Hamoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual; and Adam Shapiro, Director of Advocacy for Israel-Palestine at Democracy for the Arab World Now. Head of the Palestine/Israel Program and Senior Fellow at ACW Yousef Munayyer moderated the event.

Zaha Hassan provided background on the US Visa Waiver Program and Israel’s efforts to enter it, outlined the proposed operations of the new visa waiver memorandum of understanding (MoU) for Israel, and discussed whether the memorandum will address US concerns regarding Israel’s potential full participation in the program.

Adam Shapiro spoke about problems with the MoU, including a lack of clear definitions regarding who is covered by permissions for travel, uncertainty about data privacy and security when it comes to information collected by the Israeli authorities, and distinctions Israel makes between different categories of Americans.

Jessica Montell took a finer-grained look at the Palestinian population as a whole, especially those living under occupation and their family members, and discussed the impacts that the lack of clarity in the MoU may have on diverse Palestinians.

Maya Berry gave additional background on Israel’s discriminatory practices when it comes to Palestinian Americans’ entry to Palestine/Israel and addressed the United States’ decision to agree to the MoU despite having acknowledged the existence of these practices.

Featured image credit: Shutterstock/Rafael Ben-Ari


Thursday July 27, 2023


1:00 PM - 2:30 PM ET