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Wrapping up stint as ambassador to US, Erdan confident visa waiver forthcoming

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NEW YORK — Despite serving less than a year as Israel’s ambassador to the US, Gilad Erdan may leave a mark in Washington that resonates with Israelis back home far more than the accomplishments of storied diplomats who have filled the post before him.

Erdan didn’t play a role in brokering historic normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors like his predecessor Ron Dermer, and he might not have the stature of the last diplomat who held, as Erdan did, the positions of ambassador to the United States and ambassador to the United Nations simultaneously, Abba Eban.

However, after making a personal plea to US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office last Friday, Erdan is optimistic that Washington is on its way to including Israel in its Visa Waiver Program (VWP), in what would be a significant development for the thousands of Israelis looking to travel more seamlessly to the US each year.

Recalling the one-on-one conversation he had with the president, Erdan said during a Monday interview at his New York office that he stayed behind in the Oval Office as the rest of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s delegation headed toward the exit.

“It was important for me to speak to President Biden directly about this issue,” he said of the VWP. Successive Israeli governments have failed to convince their American counterparts that the Jewish state is worthy of being included.

“I told him that if he’s looking for moves that will receive bipartisan support, this is definitely one of them. It’s a manifestation of our alliance,” Erdan recalled, adding that Biden appeared receptive to his pitch.

Hours later, the White House issued a statement, saying the Biden administration would strengthen bilateral cooperation with Israel, “including by working together towards Israel’s inclusion in the VWP. The leaders directed their teams to enhance consultations as Israel works on addressing the program’s........

© The Times of Israel

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