The comments drew quick criticism from an Arab American group that argued the Bush administration was acquiescing in Israel's treatment of Palestinian Americans as second-class US citizens.
"American citizens whom Israeli authorities judge may be of Palestinian origin are likely to face additional, and often time consuming, questioning by immigration and border authorities," the State Department said in a "travel warning" to US citizens.
"If judged to have, or judged to have a claim to, residency status in the West Bank or Gaza, such American citizens may be required by the Government of Israel to use a Palestinian Authority travel document to transit Israel to enter the West Bank or Gaza," it added.
"In addition, American citizens considered to have or to be eligible for a Palestinian Authority ID who entered Israel via Ben-Gurion Airport might be required to depart via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan," it said, advising such people to ask Israeli authorities where they are required to depart.
'A pattern of discrimination'
James Zogby, the president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, said the State Department had accurately diagnosed the problem for Palestinian Americans traveling to Israel but had not done enough correct it.
"What they are in effect saying is that Arab Americans are second-class citizens," Zogby said in a telephone interview.
"The State Department is allowing Israel to define how they view the American citizenship of persons of Arab, and in particular, Palestinian Arab, descent. That is not the right of the Government of Israel. It is our government that defines what American citizenship is."
The State Department said it "seeks equal treatment for all American citizens regardless of national origin or ethnicity" and urged Americans who encounter difficulties to contact the US embassy in Tel Aviv or the consulate in Jerusalem.
The Arab American Institute on Monday released a letter it sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to ensure Israel treats Americans of Palestinian descent fairly.
"The treatment of American citizens traveling to (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) frequently involves burdensome bureaucratic requirements, if not outright harassment and humiliation, and indicates a pattern of discrimination and practices intended to deter visitors," the letter said.