Following US State Department figures showing a steep 80% rise in US rejections of Israeli visa requests last year, Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY) demanded answers from US Secretary of State John Kerry.
A whopping 9.7% of Israeli visa applicants were refused in 2013, a radical increase from the 5.4% of the prior year. As recently as 2007, a mere 2.5% of the requests were denied.
Meng, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pressed Kerry in a letter dated last Friday to reveal the rejection rate for young 21-27 Israeli visa applicants, seeking to travel in the US after their IDF service. Further, she requested the number of Israelis who applied for and received visas, not just percentages.
Young Israelis travelling after their military service is a "time-honored and venerable tradition in Israel," remarked Meng, noting the travel offers "the opportunity to heal from the wounds of war and become citizens of the world."
“Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that the State Department presumes that such Israelis seek to illegally sell Dead Sea products in shopping malls, and that this is the reason they do not receive tourist visas,” revealed Meng, noting the suspicions are "upsetting."
"I am concerned with the negative presumption regarding the beautiful tradition of young Israelis traveling after the army and before college. The apparent presumption of nefarious intent on the part of young Israelis seems unfair, and I urge you to end it," demanded Meng.
US rejection extends to security sector
Sources in Israel's Foreign Ministry charged that the increase in rejections stems from political motives, and was meant to remove Israel from the "white list" of nations with a visa rejection rate of under 3%. Citizens of nations on the list do not need a visa to visit America.
It was further revealed two weeks ago that Israeli security agents are similarly being discriminated against by America. Senior security personnel reported that in the past year there have been hundreds of cases of Shin Bet and Mossad defense workers being told they cannot visit America.
Security personnel already in the US are similarly only being given short-term visas according to the reports, forcing them to leave for Canada and wait weeks for their visas to be renewed.
The rising rates of rejection come as Kerry's pressure on Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA) has led to heightened tension between the two countries.