Israel seeks clarification over US travel ban
JERUSALEM - Israel said Monday it was seeking clarification of whether US President Donald Trump's travel ban applies to tens of thousands of elderly Israeli Jews born in Middle Eastern countries.
The executive order signed on Friday banned nationals of seven mainly Muslim countries for 90 days but has sparked confusion in its interpretation with people unsure whether they can travel.
Israel is home to around 140,000 people born in the seven countries covered by the decree, including around 45,000 Iranians and 53,000 Iraqis, according to official statistics.
The majority are over the age of 65 and many fled persecution. Their Israeli passports say where they were born.
The US Consulate in Jerusalem referred a question to the US State Department, which several hours after being asked to respond was still unable to clarify whether the ban includes Israeli Jews.
The Israeli authorities were also seeking clarification, foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.
Michael Wildes, a partner at the Wildes and Weinberg immigration law firm in the US and a former public prosecutor, said the wording of Trump's order was unclear.
He explained that the order refers to "aliens from countries" but does not explain how citizenship is defined.
"Either Congress is going to legislate or the president is going to clarify the executive order but until then I advise anybody who hails from those countries against travelling."
David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute, agreed it was unclear how the law would be enforced.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born Israeli and professor of Iranian politics at Israel's IDC Herzliya University, said Israelis born in those countries were "concerned" by the uncertainty.
"It shows the chaos and lack of preparation (in the US)."
Britain announced late Sunday its citizens had been given a partial exemption from the ban, allowing them to travel even if they originally come from one of the seven countries.
The clarification came after Mo Farah, a Somali born four-time British Olympic gold medalist, was advised he might not be able to return to his home in the US despite not having Somali citizenship.
Israeli ministers remained tightlipped over the ban, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stirred controversy by publicly supporting Trump's plan to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
"President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea," Netanyahu tweeted Saturday, referring to a barrier built to stop refugees and migrants.
The statement sparked ire in Mexico, including among the Jewish population.