[Analysis] Israel to deny entry to official Tlaib-Omar Congressional visit

[Analysis] Israel to deny entry to official Tlaib-Omar Congressional visit

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., at a news conference on Capitol Hill on July 15, 2018.

Israel’s dilemma – to allow or to bar Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar entrance into Israel, illustrates the ongoing battle between right-wing, extremist Israel partisans and more strategic Israel partisans. Israel’s decision – to bar the visitors – was a win for the right-wing.

Israelists with their eye on Democrats, the general American public, and Americans’ general belief in fairness recommended that Israel allow Tlaib and Omar to enter. 

Those with their eye on right-wing, extremist Israelis and right-wing, extremist pro-Israel Americans urged Israel to deny entry to the American Congress members.

With Netanyahu and Trump both facing election challenges, the right-wing won. Four articles below:

Israel bars Muslim Reps. Omar and Tlaib from visiting the country

by Saphora Smith, Lawahez Jabari and Associated Press, reposted from NBC News

Israel said Thursday it will bar two pro-Palestinian Democratic congresswomen from visiting the country, in a move that could strain relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Democrats in Washington.

Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan both have been outspoken critics of Israel and President Donald Trump tweeted shortly before the announcement that they should be prohibited from entering he country.

In an apparent reversal of Israel’s position to admit all American lawmakers who seek to visit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the country had decided not to allow Tlaib and Omar to enter. The Muslim American lawmakers had been expected to arrive on Sunday.

“Only a few days ago, we received their visitation plan, and it became clear that they were planning a campaign whose sole purpose was to strengthen the boycott and negate Israel’s legitimacy,” Netanyahu said, referring to the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, known as BDS.

[Editor’s note: read here and here about BDS, a nonviolent movement that seeks justice and Palestinian rights – a movement supported by 75% of Americans.]

“For example, they defined their visit destination as ‘Palestine’ rather than ‘Israel,’ and unlike all Democratic and Republican congressmen to date, they have avoided seeking any meeting with an official Israeli official in both the government and the opposition,” the prime minister added. “A week ago, Israel welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican congressmen who expressed broad bipartisan support in Israel, expressed just a month ago in overwhelming opposition to the congressional vote against the BDS. By contrast, the two-member congressional visitation plan shows that their intent is to hurt Israel and increase its unrest against it.”

[Read here and here about congressional trips to Israel that are reported to have a strong propaganda component, and are legal only because of “the Israel loophole.”]

Omar and Tlaib have previously voiced their support for BDS; under Israeli law, supporters of the movement can be denied entry to Israel.

Omar has also been accused by House Democratic leaders for promoting “anti-Semitic tropes” and in February she was forced to apologize for controversial tweets about the pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

In one tweet, she said money was driving U.S. lawmakers to defend Israel and that AIPAC — the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee — was paying politicians to support Israel.

[Although Omar was rebuked for this tweet, it is well-known to be accurate. Read here and here, for example.]

Last month, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, told the Times of Israel that the country would not block their trip.

“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Dermer told the Israeli newspaper.

Netanyahu held consultations with members of his cabinet Wednesday about the congresswomen’s upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, a government official said in a statement earlier Thursday.

Barring the congresswomen from entering could risk further straining relations between Israel’s right-wing government, which has stressed its close ties with the Trump administration, and Democrats in Congress.

Tlaib, 43, was born in the U.S. but draws her roots from a Palestinian village in the West Bank where her grandmother and extended family still live. The congresswoman said she had hoped to visit her family during the trip.

Trump has repeatedly attacked Tlaib and Omar, including a series of tweets last month in which he said they should “go back” to the “broken” countries they came from. Trump’s comments drew sharp criticism from Democrats.

Both are U.S. citizens and are members of the so-called “Squad” of newly elected left-wing Democratic representatives, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.


Israel Bars Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib From Entering Country Over BDS Support

By Aiden Pink, reposted from The Forward

This is a developing story.

The government of Israel has blocked Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country during their planned congressional visit to Israel and the West Bank this weekend.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced the ban in a statement on Thursday. He added that if Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American and has relatives in the West Bank, were to request a humanitarian visa to visit her family, he would consider it.

Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and the only representatives who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. A law allows the Interior Ministry to bar BDS supporters from entering the country, but there are exceptions if doing so would harm the country’s Israel’s foreign relations, Haaretz reported.

One of Netanyahu’s closest advisors had said last month that the two would be allowed entry. “Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” said last month in a statement to reporters delivered by WhatsApp.

But President Trump, who is close to Netanyahu, reportedly told his own advisers that he thought Israel should turn them away, Axios reported last week.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit,” Trump tweeted on Thursday after news of the possible ban first broke. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

Most American Jewish organizations, including those frequently critical of Omar and Tlaib, reacted critically to the news.


Israel bars Omar, Tlaib from entering country, as Trump lashes out

By SARAH FERRIS, JOHN BRESNAHAN and HEATHER CAYGLE, reposted from Politico

Israel’s government on Thursday barred Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country as part of a landmark visit, in a move that quickly set off a political firestorm in Washington.

Omar and Tlaib — the first two Muslim women in Congress — were slated to arrive this weekend, but President Donald Trump had lobbied Israeli leaders to block them from entering the country and again lashed out at the pair on Thursday.

Omar hit back, saying, “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected members of Congress.”

“The irony of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation,” she added in an afternoon statement.

The controversial decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came despite pleas from top lawmakers in both parties to allow the delegation to make its trip. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the decision, saying she was “deeply saddened” by the move after the Israeli ambassador announced last month that the two lawmakers would be allowed to visit.

“Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Netanyahu defended his decision, saying he changed his mind after learning more details of their trip earlier this week.

“Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress,” Netanyahu said a statement. “Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel, which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”

Netanyahu did say that a “humanitarian request” by Tlaib to visit her relatives in the West Bank would be accepted “on the condition that she pledges not to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who led a delegation of dozens of House Democrats to Israel earlier this month, had repeatedly asked Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders to allow the freshman lawmakers to enter the country, only to be rejected.

Hoyer and other pro-Israel Democrats, like Nita Lowey of New York, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Ted Deutch of Florida and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, also personally lobbied Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., to allow the visit. Dermer stated several weeks ago that Israel would let the trip go ahead.

Gottheimer, who has previously sparred with Omar and Tlaib over their controversial comments about Israel, said refusing to allow them to visit the country “regardless of their views and misguided, planned itinerary, is a serious, strategic mistake.”

An irate Hoyer called Thursday’s decision “outrageous” and pointed to Dermer’s earlier pledge to let Omar and Tlaib enter the country.

“This action is contrary to the statement and assurances to me by Israel’s ambassador to the United States that ‘out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any Member of Congress into Israel,’” Hoyer said. “That representation was not true.”

Even the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, criticized the announcement.

“We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution,” AIPAC said in a statment. “We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have been largely silent with House and Senate GOP leaders had yet to weigh in as of Thursday afternoon.

Thursday morning, Trump slammed Tlaib and Omar — two fierce critics of the president who have called for his impeachment — and encouraged Israel to block them.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

Tlaib had planned to see her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank. Instead, Hoyer met with Tlaib’s grandmother during his congressional trip.

Senior Democrats, including longtime pro-Israel advocates, blasted the move as one that will hurt U.S.-Israeli relations in the long run.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Israeli decision “is a sign of weakness, not strength. It will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America. … Many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed in this decision, which the Israeli government should reverse.”

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