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Netanyahu Preparing to Block Reps Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib From Entering Israel
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=51394"><span class="small">Ruth Eglash and John Hudson, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Thursday, 15 August 2019 08:34

Excerpt: "A forthcoming trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) may be blocked by Israel in its current proposed format, a senior Israeli government official told The Washington Post on Thursday."

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib attend a rally with Democrats in the Capitol to introduce the Equality Act on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (photo: Tom Williams/AP)
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib attend a rally with Democrats in the Capitol to introduce the Equality Act on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. (photo: Tom Williams/AP)

Netanyahu Preparing to Block Reps Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib From Entering Israel

By Ruth Eglash and John Hudson, The Washington Post

15 August 19


aught between the opposing views of President Trump and Democratic leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now considering barring Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting Israel during a scheduled trip to start on Sunday, according to U.S. and Israeli officials familiar with the matter.

The potential move threatens to open up a new battle between Netanyahu and Democrats, who have privately warned that such a decision would be inconsistent with Israel’s reputation as a country that prides itself on being a democracy tolerant of political expression. It would also amount to an about-face in policy on the part of Netanyahu’s government.

Last month, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said the two congresswomen would be allowed to visit Israel “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.” But on Wednesday, Israeli officials quietly informed congressional leaders that Netanyahu had changed his mind and that Israel would prohibit the two vocal critics of Israel from entering the country, congressional aides said. Like others, the aides spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.

Israeli officials had said they would formally announce the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib on Wednesday, but after a private backlash from Democratic leadership and some U.S.-based pro-Israel groups, the announcement was moved to Thursday, leaving lawmakers uncertain whether Netanyahu had changed his mind.

With three weeks to go before a repeat election on Sept. 17, Netanyahu is fighting a bitter battle to stay in office and wants to appear strong to his fractured right-wing support base.

Omar and Tlaib’s trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank was planned by Miftah, a nonprofit organization headed by Palestinian lawmaker and longtime peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.

The question about their entry status arose because of a recently passed Israeli law that denies entry visas to foreign nationals who publicly back or call for any kind of boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements.

The goal of the measure is to battle the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which protests Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and has found growing support in Europe and the United States in recent years.

President Trump, who maintains a close relationship with Netanyahu, was reportedly disappointed in Israel’s announcement that it would permit Tlaib and Omar to visit. Trump has said the lawmakers should “go back” to the countries they came from in remarks widely condemned as racist. Tlaib was born in Michigan, and Omar was born in Somalia. Both have loudly criticized Israel’s human rights record and treatment of Palestinians.

Neither of their offices responded to requests for comment.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) took the issue up with Israeli officials on Wednesday on behalf of the Democratic leadership, but congressional aides said it remained unclear if his discussions had any impact.

Hoyer, who just returned from a trip to Israel sponsored by the powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization AIPAC, was seen as an obvious point person for the dispute, given his close relationship with the Israeli government.

Most Democrats in Congress are far more reluctant to criticize Israel than Tlaib or Omar, and many have spoken out against their remarks criticizing Israel’s policies and influence on Capitol Hill. But congressional aides said many in the party would forcefully oppose an Israeli decision to block two women of color from traveling to the country.

It’s unclear what might have changed the Israeli position from last week, when Axios reported that an interagency meeting was held in which all government agencies agreed the visit should be allowed in order to avoid damaging the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

Anticipation for the visit has generated significant media attention in Israel. This week, Knesset member and former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said he would be willing to meet the freshman lawmakers but not if “they come with their opinion and create propaganda or make havoc in our country.”

A person involved with the trip who was not authorized to talk to the media said the congresswomen hoped to arrive in the region Sunday, depending on Israel’s final decision.

Tlaib hoped to stay some extra days to see her grandmother, who lives in a West Bank village.

No official meetings were scheduled for the U.S. lawmakers, but they were planning to travel to the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah and spend time in Jerusalem.

They were scheduled to meet during their stay with Israeli and Palestinian civil society groups, humanitarian workers and young people and see one of the East Jerusalem hospitals affected by recent cuts in U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

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