Despite hitting a snag in virtue of the ongoing political crisis, Israel cleared on Thursday another hurdle on its way to joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (WVP) after Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev signed a key information-sharing agreement (PSCS) with Washington.
The agreement, which was signed in the presence of the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Jonathan Shrier, is another step toward exempting Israeli nationals from attaining a tourist visa before traveling to the U.S.
The program's first requirement was full disclosure of criminal and security information on travelers boarding U.S.-bound flights which was signed back in March.
The second requirement pertains to the use of passenger name record (PNR) — a code that ties back to a database of information provided by passengers and collected by air carriers, which allows passengers to manage their booking or check-in online — whereby U.S. and Israeli authorities can uncover patterns of criminal behavior.
By signing the second requirement, Israel will allow the mutual sharing of information with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
"The agreement is important for cooperation between the two countries, and also an important step in promoting Israel's accession to the Visa Waiver program. It would also allow a stronger friendship between our countries," Shrier said.
"The PSCS agreement is of strategic importance to the State of Israel," Baelev said. "It will regulate mechanisms to increase cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. administration in the war on organized crime and terrorism through advanced systems that will allow monitoring and detecting potential suspects."
Last week, leaders of the outgoing Knesset's opposition parties told U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides they will pass the necessary legislation for Israel to qualify for the WVP. However, the legislation was blocked when opposition parties refused to back the bill before the Knesset's dispersal.