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Letters: Getting into and out of Israel

May 02, 2013

Re "Israel's free pass from Boxer," Opinion, April 28

Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens from harm. Contrary to George Bisharat's assertion, no "free pass" will be given to Israel to racially profile Americans entering that country if Congress includes Israel in the U.S visa waiver program.

In reality, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), would add Israel to a list of 37 countries currently participating in the program. It requires the secretary of Homeland Security to certify that Israel meets all the requirements of the waiver program, which allows foreigners from certain countries to travel more freely to the United States. Americans are never denied entry to Israel based solely on criticism of Israeli policy. Israel is a liberal, democratic and peace-seeking nation with an independent judiciary and a vigorous free press.

Remarkably, Israel maintains its democratic principles in the face of ongoing threats to its very existence.

Rabbi Mark S. Diamond

Los Angeles

The writer is the Los Angeles regional director for the American Jewish Committee.

How refreshing it would have been had Bisharat recommended ways to reduce or resolve the inconvenience faced by travelers passing through Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport.

He could have urged Boxer to include a proposal to have Israel establish a program similar to TSA Pre, the pre-approved traveler screening program. Another idea is to create a method of opt-in pre-engagement with Israeli authorities in advance of one's travel if one feels he will be delayed upon arrival.

Until the day arrives (hopefully soon) when Israel's presence among the family of nations is as widely accepted as is the case with any other progressive, Western, economically active nation, Israel's stepped-up security processes are reasonable despite the inconvenience factor they sporadically create.

David Alpern

Long Beach

Bisharat is correct to wonder what drove Boxer to sponsor a bill that would allow Israel to racially profile and discriminate against Arab and Muslim Americans. It surely is not to protect Israel because, as Bisharat points out, there has never been a case of an Arab American committing a terrorist incident in Israel. And Boxer has no reason to fear the pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

After a long career fighting for equal rights, Boxer surely does not believe in racial profiling. So why is she pushing legislation so contrary to her basic instincts?

Jeff Warner

Los Angeles

While Bisharat makes a compelling argument, he fails to mention some important information that would warrant granting Israel such a waiver: Namely, Israel faces security challenges unlike any other country in the visa waiver program. As a close ally, isn't it in this country's interest to include Israel in the visa waiver program while not limiting that government's duty to protect its citizens?

Like any other who may disagree with Israel's stringent security policies, Bisharat could choose not to visit that country.

Gal Sitty

Newport Beach

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