Obama extends Israel embassy waiver

President Obama extended a waiver for an additional six months that delays moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Obama’s waiver, issued June 1, follows in the footsteps of predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who also extended the waiver every six months since a law was passed in 1995 mandating moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Presidents are permitted to delay the move on national security grounds.

Some Jewish groups have pushed for the United States to move the embassy as a way to bolster Israeli claims to the city. Those favoring the use of the waiver say that moving the embassy would anger the Arab world and put the United States in the position of taking sides on an issue that should be settled in peace talks.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, has privately told Jewish leaders he would not commit to moving the embassy as president.

Sherman introduces visa waiver legislation

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman introduced legislation to allow Israel into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

Sherman (D-Calif.) this week introduced the Visa Waiver for Israel Act, which would permit nationals from Israel to enter the United States as temporary visitors for tourism or business for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

“Israel is our closest friend and democratic ally in the Middle East,” Sherman said in a statement. “Adding Israel to the Visa Waiver Program will boost business, tourism, and job creation here in the U.S. and enhance cultural ties between our two nations.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) were the other two lead co-sponsors of the legislation. Eleven others signed on as co-sponsors.

Following the introduction of the legislation, the Israeli Embassy released a statement in support of the bill.

“This act would stimulate numerous business endeavors, and help promote closer cultural, economic, and touristic ties,” it said. “The passage of this legislation would further strengthen the special and deep relationship between Israel and the United States.”

Efforts in previous Congresses to add Israel to the list came to nought.

Thirty-six countries, including 30 from Europe, enjoy visa waiver status.