Israel announced that it is barring the entry of two members of the United States Congress, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib of the Democratic Party, who have been proactively supportive of the Boycott Divestment and Sections Movement against the Jewish State.
Despite initial indication by Jerusalem officials that the first two Muslim Congresswomen would be permitted entry, a reexamination of their announced itinerary, in which they referred to Israel as Palestine, one of many factors which contributed to the altering of Jerusalem’s decision.
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri wrote in a statement that his decision was made in full coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. He explained that while the State of Israel honors the American Congress, in context with the tight alliance between the two countries, it would be unthinkable to grant entry to those that seek to harm the state of Israel, even by means of criticism.
That said, Minister Deri underscored that Congresswoman Tlaib – who is of Palestinian descent – could receive a separate entry-permit on humanitarian grounds, for the purpose of visiting her family, so long as she does not exploit the circumstances to further her anti-Israel political agenda.
An interior Ministry official told TV7 that while it may appear as if Israel supposedly changed its mind after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the two “hate Israel” and that Israel would be displaying weakness if it permitted their entry, the move was made after thorough considerations of their vocal support for anti-Israeli activities, including the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, which granted the legal grounds for the ministry’s decision.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained in a statement that while “No country in the world respects America and the American Congress more than the State of Israel,” Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are not merely criticizing the Jewish State; but are “leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress.”
Netanyahu underscored that “As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country.”
The Prime Minister also mentioned the fact that the United States also barred entry of “an Israeli member of Knesset, as well as to other public figures from around the world,” due to similar reasons.
In addition to the stated reasons behind Jerusalem’s decision, Netanyahu revealed that “the organization that (sought to fund) their trip… Miftah, …is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.”
While both the congresswomen are from the democratic party, the Israeli leader sought to discredit claims of political considerations; pointing to the fact that a “week ago, Israel warmly welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who expressed broad bipartisan support for Israel, which was also demonstrated a month ago in a resounding bipartisan vote against BDS in (the U.S.) Congress.”
Meanwhile in the American town of Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. president Donald Trump hailed the Israeli decision, accusing the two congresswomen of holding anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments. According to President Trump: “Well, I’m only involved from the standpoint of: they are very anti-Jewish and they’re very anti-Israel. I think they’re very disgraceful: the things they’ve said. You have lists of–, this isn’t just a one-line mistake. What they’ve said about Israel and Jewish people is a horrible thing and they’ve become the face of the Democrat party. So, I did, absolutely, put out a very strong statement. I think, if you look at their language, if you look at what they’ve said — if I ever said it, it would be a –, it would be a horrible–, it would be a horrible month, to put it mildly. So, the things that they’ve said — Omar, Tlaib — what they’ve said is disgraceful. So, I can’t imagine why Israel would let them in. But, if they want to let them in, they can; but I can’t imagine they would do it.”
Representative Omar responded by dubbing the Israeli decision as “an insult to democratic values” and noted the irony of the only democracy in the Middle East making such a decision. She further said that this was not surprising to her, since Prime Minister Netanyahu consistently resisted peace efforts and restricted Palestinian freedom of movement.