Omer Barlev, Robert Silvers and Ayelet Shaked
Omer Barlev, Robert Silvers and Ayelet ShakedSpokesperson

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev on Wednesday signed an agreement with the United States to share information on civilians convicted of serious criminal offenses.

The agreement was signed with Under Secretary of Homeland Security Robert Silvers, and in the presence of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

As part of the process of Israel's entry into the Visa Waiver Program, Israel is required to meet a number of international thresholds that will allow it to enter the program. The information sharing agreement signed on Wednesday is one of those steps. As part of the information sharing, the two countries will be able to submit to each other about 1,000 queries a year about citizens convicted of serious criminal offenses.

"Today we took another step on the path towards exempting Israelis from visas and signed an agreement that was a necessary criterion in the threshold conditions of the Americans. The seriousness of the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, of his deputy Robert Silvers, of the US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, and of the American team on the subject is very high and brings with it great optimism," said Shaked.

"As I promised we will continue to advance this mission on a daily basis and with all our might until it is completed. There is still a process to go through, but with the help of the hard work on both sides - we will bring good tidings to the citizens of the State of Israel," Shaked promised.

Barlev said, "I am very pleased to take this important step and sign the Memorandum of Understanding and the letter of intent regarding EPSA with the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security and the US administration, thus contributing to the promotion of the visa waiver for Israeli citizens visiting the United States. The Memorandum of Understanding will establish cooperation between the US Department of Homeland Security and the Public Security Ministry for immigration purposes - thus adding to a wide array of collaborations on domestic security issues between the countries."

"I thank the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Robert Silvers, and the Minister of the Interior, Ayelet Shaked, for leading the promotion of the Visa Waiver Program for Israelis in the United States, which has been promised for years but is only now being implemented under her leadership, under this government and along with our friends in the Biden administration," Barlev added.

The White House said this past August, after a meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Biden emphasized "his administration would strengthen bilateral cooperation with Israel in ways that would benefit both US citizens and Israeli citizens, including by working together towards Israel’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program."

Including Israelis in the Visa Waiver Program is an issue that Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, has been working on.

During a conversation with Mayorkas several months ago, Erdan stressed that he sees high importance in the inclusion of Israel in the program, and said that accepting Israel into the program would illustrate the special relations between the two countries and peoples.

In a subsequent post on Facebook, Erdan noted that a large majority of Israelis who apply for a visa and are refused are discharged soldiers who seek to visit the US after completing their IDF service and are refused a visa because US authorities mistakenly think they are seeking to settle in the country long term.