Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Obama's Double Standard On Visas: Israel vs Honduras

Apparently, the United States is very unhappy that Israel has instituted new restrictions on the visas of people visiting the Palestinian Authority:

Under the new policy, Israeli authorities have frequently begun stamping passports of tourists intending to visit areas in the West Bank with "Palestinian Authority only" stamps, restricting visitors' ability to enter Israel, or even to board returning flights from Ben-Gurion Airport.

"We have let the government of Israel know that these restrictions unfairly impact Palestinian and Arab American travelers and are not acceptable," the State spokesman's office said in a statement responding to a reporter's question earlier in the day.

"We have repeatedly told the government of Israel that the United States expects all American citizens to be treated equally, regardless of their national origin or other citizenship."[emphasis added]

Generally speaking, the US makes a very valid point: "these restrictions unfairly impact Palestinian and Arab American travelers" and the US has every right to expect"all American citizens to be treated equally, regardless of their national origin or other citizenship"

However, there appears to be one point the US government is studiously avoiding:

Israeli officials have defended the policy as necessary on security grounds, as a means of insuring that individuals who pose security risks aren't able to wander around Israel. In the past, some foreign terrorists were able to attack Israelis after first rendezvousing with contacts in Palestinian-controlled areas.

Of course, the question arises as to just how the US itself deals with the issue of visas and the like. Apparently the US does not hesitate to use visas and passports for political purposes. For instance, last month the US Court of Appeals rejected the plea of parents who wanted Israel listed as their son's country of birth on his passport. And why is it that the State Department will not allow this--because their son was born in Jerusalem. Apparently, the implication would be that the US recognizes Jerusalem as part of Israel, thus jeopardizing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

It's an odd decision, considering the whole point of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act--even if the president signs a waiver delaying the moving of the US embassy--clearly recognizes Jerusalem as the capital: and capitals generally are part of the country of which they are the capital.

Among the findings of the bill:

(1) Each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital.

(2) Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel.

(16) The United States conducts official meetings and other business in the city of Jerusalem in de facto recognition of its status as the capital of Israel.

More explicit is Section 21 of HR 1646 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003:


(a) CONGRESSIONAL STATEMENT OF POLICY- The Congress maintains its commitment to relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and urges the President, pursuant to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-45; 109 Stat. 398), to immediately begin the process of relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

(b) LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS FOR CONSULATE IN JERUSALEM- None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be expended for the operation of a United States consulate or diplomatic facility in Jerusalem unless such consulate or diplomatic facility is under the supervision of the United States Ambassador to Israel.

(c) LIMITATION ON USE OF FUNDS FOR PUBLICATIONS- None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be available for the publication of any official government document which lists countries and their capital cities unless the publication identifies Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

(d) RECORD OF PLACE OF BIRTH AS ISRAEL FOR PASSPORT PURPOSES- For purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen's legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.
The bill was signed by President Bush, but has been interpreted as advisory, rather than mandatory--a simple way to get around a law that requires the government to recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel and have passports that recognize it as such.

But let it not be said that Obama is going to play favorites when playing games with visas and the like. Apparently Obama has still not gotten over Hondurans insisting on following their constitution in deposing Manuel Zelaya as president--so Obama has chosen to place limitations on Honduran visas.
Temporary Suspension of Non-Immigrant Visa Services in Honduras

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Washington, DC
August 25, 2009

The OAS Foreign Ministers mission is in Honduras seeking support for the San Jose Accord, which would restore the democratic and constitutional order and resolve the political crisis in Honduras. In support of this mission and as a consequence of the de facto regime’s reluctance to sign the San Jose Accord, the U.S. Department of State is conducting a full review of our visa policy in Honduras. As part of that review, we are suspending non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services in the consular section of our embassy in Honduras, effective August 26. We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution.
Unlike the manipulation of visas and passports for political ends, Israel's restrictions on passports are an issue of security and the safety of it's citizens. US feelings about "restrictions that unfairly impact" travelers are apparently very fluid.

Note: Will the US be as brave in playing the visa card with Ahmadinejad as it is with Honduras?

[Hat tip: Hot Air]

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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