US rips Israel for PA visitors policy
The United States termed new Israeli visa restrictions on visitors to the Palestinian Authority "not acceptable" late Tuesday and has informed the government of its criticism.
Under the new policy, Israeli authorities have frequently begun stamping passports of tourists intending to visit areas in the West Bank with "Palestinian Authority only" stamps, restricting visitors' ability to enter Israel, or even to board returning flights from Ben-Gurion Airport.
"We have let the government of Israel know that these restrictions unfairly impact Palestinian and Arab American travelers and are not acceptable," the State Department spokesman's office said in a statement responding to a reporter's question earlier in the day.
"We have repeatedly told the government of Israel that the United States expects all American citizens to be treated equally, regardless of their national origin or other citizenship."
Americans of Palestinian heritage or connections have complained to US and Israeli authorities about the difficulties the policy imposes on traveling to the West Bank, in many cases to visit family or for business interests.
Israeli officials have defended the policy as necessary on security grounds, as a means of insuring that individuals who pose security risks aren't able to wander around Israel. In the past, some foreign terrorists were able to attack Israelis after first rendezvousing with contacts in Palestinian-controlled areas.