WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill that would further enhance U.S.-Israel ties.
The bill approved Thursday, initiated by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), enhances Israel’s status as entitled to license-free defense technology, adds items to the weapons stockpile the United States maintains in Israel and which is available for Israeli use, requires increased congressional oversight to ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, encourages U.S.-Israel cooperation on developing energy technologies and encourages Israel’s entry into the visa waiver program, which would allow Israelis visa-free travel to the United States.
The latter provision had in earlier versions of the bill mandated such an entry, a central factor in holding up the bill over the last 18 months; the State Department had objected to Israel’s entry for a number of reasons, including a spike in illegal Israeli travel to the United States and discrimination faced by Arab and Muslim Americans entering Israel.
A similar bill passed the House in March. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which had made the bill must-pass legislation, encouraged both chambers to reconcile their bills and get it to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
“This bill will dramatically strengthen and expand the U.S.-Israel alliance as a way to confront new threats and challenges in the Middle East,” AIPAC said in a statement.