WASHINGTON (Aug. 15)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) has apparently become the first person allowed to enter Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with a passport indicating a previous visit to Israel.
“With that simple but significant act of stamping my passport, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have removed another obstacle from the road toward peace in the Middle East,” Lieberman said Thursday at a news conference in Tel Aviv.
“This is the first time this has happened, but it is clearly not the last,” he said.
Lieberman’s successful entry into the two countries was welcomed by the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress.
“We hope that the gestures toward Senator Lieberman are indications that the Saudis and Kuwaitis are considering” entirely eliminating “their discriminatory practice” with regard to passports containing Israeli entry stamps, said Jason Isaacson, director of the AJCommittee’s office of government and international affairs here.
“The decision is a small but important confidence-building measure that we trust will soon be followed by other such measures that fully express Saudi Arabia’s acceptance of Israel’s legitimacy and permanence in the region,” said Robert Lifton, national president of the AJCongress.
The ban by the two countries on passports stamped by Israel became a major issue earlier this year when both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait barred Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) from entering with a diplomatic passport stamped in Israel.
Lautenberg, who, like Lieberman, is Jewish, had to obtain a second passport that did not contain the Israeli stamp. He later introduced a bill in the Senate to bar the use of dual sets of U.S. passports, in which one is marked “Israel only” and the other is used for travel to Arab countries.
Lieberman said Thursday he left Saudi Arabia and Kuwait “with the strong feeling that the leadership of the two countries see this as a moment of extraordinary opportunity to establish a new regional order.”
As chairman of the Senate’s Gulf Pollution Task Force, Lieberman visited the two Persian Gulf countries to study the environmental consequences of the Gulf war.