WASHINGTON (Jul. 10)
A Senate subcommittee has voted to bar the use of U.S. diplomatic or tourist passports that are stamped with the words “Israel only.”
U.S. consular officials issue such passports to citizens wishing to travel to both Israel and Arab countries, which routinely forbid the entry of those carrying passports with Israeli visas.
But some members of Congress feel that issuing the “Israel only” passports reinforces the Arab nations’ political ostracism of Israel.
State Department officials said Wednesday that they would be concerned with any new law that inconveniences tourists to Israel by having their current “Israel only” passports invalidated.
If an amendment sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) became law, such passports would become null after a 90-day grace period.
The amendment was approved by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, state and judiciary as part of the 1992 State Department appropriations bill.
The version of the bill that passed the full House last month does not contain the language, but pro-Israel activists hope it will be added to the final version of the bill.
Earlier this year, Lautenberg was traveling on a diplomatic passport when Saudi Arabia and Kuwait barred his entry because the passport contained an Israeli entry stamp.
To circumvent the problem, Lautenberg obtained a second U.S. diplomatic passport.
The Lautenberg amendment would bar U.S. diplomats from using separate passports, so that “Arab countries would have to take them or leave them,” said Mark Medin, assistant Washington representative of the Anti-Defamation League.
Steven Schlein, Lautenberg’s press secretary, conceded that if members of Congress were rebuffed and still wanted to enter an Arab country, they could use a tourist passport that did not have an Israeli entry stamp in it.
Will Maslow, general counsel at the American Jewish Congress, called the Lautenberg amendment “symbolic, and it helps, but it’s a fringe effort.”