Israeli reports accuse US of denying entry visas to Israeli spies
March 5, 2014 5 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Articles in the Israeli media have accused the United States of quietly instituting a policy of denying entry visa requests from members of Israel’s security and intelligence agencies. In an article published on Tuesday, centrist newspaper Maariv cited “senior security personnel” who have allegedly been barred from entering the US. The centrist Hebrew-language daily said the past 12 months have seen “hundreds of cases” of employees in the Israeli intelligence community who have been told by US consular officials that they could not step foot on US soil. The paper said the visa rejections appear to affect mostly members of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, and the Mossad, which conducts covert operations abroad. Visa bans have also affected employees in Israel’s defense industries, said the article. The report suggests that the targeting of Israeli security and intelligence personnel appears to be deliberate, adding that it applies even to those Israeli intelligence or security officers that are already stationed on US soil. In what seems to be a change in policy, the latter are now being issued short-term visas, rather than multiyear entry permits. As a result, the paper says they are “forced” to cross from the US into Canada at regular intervals, in order to apply to have their visas renewed. However, many of them are now having their visa renewal applications rejected, or are made to wait “several weeks” before having their entry permits renewed by American consular staff. The paper quoted a “senior [Israeli] security expert”, who said he had been denied an entry visa to the US this past January, for the first time in his career, despite having visited the US numerous times in the past “without trouble”. He told Maariv that he had “traveled to the US dozens of times in the past for my job and never faced issues getting a visa” on time. The accusations come less than a month after figures released by the US Department of State suggested that there has been an unprecedented 80 percent increase in the number of rejections of visa requests coming from Israeli citizens during 2013. The revelation prompted an angry response from the Consular Section of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which accused the US of rejecting visa applications coming from Israelis for political reasons. Some in Israel believe that the rejections are part of a wider effort by American officials to strip Israel of its membership in the US State Department’s so-called “white list”, which consists of countries with a visa rejection rate of below 3 percent. Maariv said it had been unable to solicit a formal response to the story from American or Israeli officials.