UPDATES 10 am Israel time, Saturday, September 20 2014:
**The situation in the northern Egyptian Sinai, just across the border from Israel, continues to be violently volatile despite the best attempts of the Egyptian Army to uproot the terrorists who have taken root there.
At this moment this morning, Egyptian security forces have set up roadbocks all around the Rafah Crossing. At least one terrorist has been killed and another five captured in what is being described as an “ongoing security incident.”
This follows the beheading of a man in Sheikh Zuweid near Al-Arish yesterday by terrorists belonging to the group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. He was accused of helping Israel target the group with drone strikes.
The U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act passed by the U.S. Senate yesterday which upgrades Israel’s status to that of a “major strategic partner” follows a similar bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March.
The Act is not yet law. First the bills passed by the Senate and House must be “reconciled”. Only after this reconciliation takes place can the President sign the bill into law. At the earliest, the Act might be signed by President Obama in December.
The Act is significant in that it upgrades Israel’s long held (since 1988) status as “Non-Nato Major Ally”. Generally speaking, the Act lays the basis for increased U.S.-Israel cooperation.
However, the Act is long on generalities and short on specifics–and leaves virtually all aspects of U.S.-Israel policy in the hands of the president in terms of encouraging White House approval of long-term security guarantees and encouraging increased cooperation in such areas as energy and research/development projects.
For example, 0ne of the few specifics is that the stockpile of forward-stored U.S. weaponry in Israel “can be increased” by $200 million to a total of $1.8 billion. The weaponry is to be used by the U.S. in the case of a Middle East crisis or by Israel should an emergency warrant–on the condition that Israel pays for the munitions used.
You may remember that during the recent war with Hamas, Israel tapped into these reserves for artillery and tank shells–however, that tapping aroused rancor within the Obama White House and State Department and led to the institution of more “reviews” before future allocations can be made.
But the one provision that Israelis most hoped for is not included in the bill–the inclusion of Israel in the visa waiver program.
Your humble servant has already explored this subject in some detail and would like to conclude today’s blog by reprinting part of a previous blog written on the subject:
“It has always perplexed your humble servant that the U.S. requires that all Israelis obtain a visa before traveling to America. Given the close relationship between the two countries, one would have thought that this requirement would have been waived long ago.
But it hasn’t, and according to the latest statistics, 125,000 Israelis were forced to apply for U.S. visas in 2013.
What is even more troublesome, however, is that the number of visa applications that are being rejected is steadily rising. In 2007, 2.5% of Israeli applications were rejected by the U.S. State Department; in 2012, 5.4% were rejected; last year, 9.7% were rejected.
By the way, the citizens of 37 other countries do not need a visa to enter the U.S.:
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
So what is now stopping Israel from receiving visa-exempt status?
Two words: Barack Obama.
Obama refuses to grant Israel visa-exempt status because Israel does not allow “free entry” into Israel for Muslims from the United States.
And why doesn’t Israel allow “free entry” for such Muslims? Because many American Muslims are naturalized American citizens who have immigrated to the United States from countries which are technically and literally “at war” with Israel–and believe that Israel does not have the right to exist. Israel demands the right to scrutinize such tourists before they enter Israel.”
One last word: while the people of Israel sincerely appreciate the support that is continually provided by the U.S. Congress, any increased Israeli dependency on the U.S. for anything is dangerous.