Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked with American Ambassador Tom Nides
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked with American Ambassador Tom NidesFacebook

The outgoing Interior Minister, Ayelet Shaked, revealed that in two weeks a significant statistic is expected to be published that could advance the move to exempt Israelis from the need to obtain a visa when traveling to the US.

"After an entire year of intensive work, in two weeks Israel's annual refusal percentage will be published. The maximum refusal percentage required to enter the US visa exemption program is 3%. We worked hard to reach that goal and I believe and hope that in two weeks there will be news that we met the goal, that fewer than 3% of Israelis were refused a visa, and thus the way will be paved for obtaining visa exemption for Israelis," Shaked wrote on her Facebook account.

Shaked hinted that, while the American side is very interested in promoting the issue, it is domestic Israeli political issues that are delaying progress. "I want to thank the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, who led the project on the American side and is determined to see it through to completion. Because of the delay in the relevant legislation, it will end next year."

The American administration tried to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu, in the period between the fall of the last government in June and the elections on November 1, so that he would agree to promote the legislation necessary to eliminate the need for visas to enter the US.

Unusually, the American ambassador to Israel met with Netanyahu and urged him to agree to the promotion of the necessary laws, so that Israel could enter the visa exemption program early next year.

At the meeting, Ambassador Nides explained to Netanyahu that delaying the legislation could delay the program for an entire year. Political sources claim that Netanyahu heard the ambassador, but was not prepared for the current Interior Minister, Ayelet Shaked, to register the achievement to her name.

The Likud said at the time that "according to American law, approval for Israeli visas can only be granted in a year. The required legislation in Israel has not even reached the Knesset table yet. At this stage, it includes an American demand for intrusion into the privacy of Israeli citizens, which is unacceptable to us. After we form a stable government, the Likud will table the legislation. The process will be completed by March 2023, so that the issuance of visas will not be delayed even one day."