While the waiving of the requirement for a visa for Israelis visiting the US remains a dream – or a rumor – Israeli visitors to Belarus are likely to be exempted from a visa requirement soon. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Gideon Saar authorized the opening of negotiations with Belarussian officials on a mutual visa exemption for travelers to either country.
Saar decided on the move after consulting with senior government officials, including officials of the Population Authority, the Justice Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Public Security Ministry, and Israel Police.
Among the issues that loomed large were those surrounding immigration and security issues. Israel wants to ensure that it is not flooded with migrants from third countries who will take advantage of the open travel between Israel and Belarus to reach Israel.
Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and established relations with Israel in 1992. The two countries have signed a series of agreements, including agreements to fight international crime jointly, agricultural development agreements, aviation agreements, investment protection agreements, education, tourism, and more.
According to the Foreign Ministry, there are several Jewish organizations operating in Belarus, without interference from the government or anyone else.
Several months ago, Saar signed a deal with the former Soviet republic of Georgia to waive visa requirements in both directions.
In talks in February, Minister of Finance Yair Lapid met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Mikhail Rossi. The two agreed to expand bi-lateral relations through financing options to Israel exporters for long-term foreign trade transactions.
Emphasizing the importance of the financial relation between the two countries, Lapid stated, "Israeli exports are one of mainstays of the Israeli economy, and so we work to expand the range of target markets. Belarus will allow our exporters to expand into new areas."