Israel will allow US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to enter the country in order to visit her family in the occupied West Bank, just a day after it banned her and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from a diplomatic visit.
Tlaib – who is of Palestinian descent – yesterday sent a letter to Israel’s Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, to request that she be allowed to enter the country in order to visit her grandmother, who lives in Beit Ur Al-Fouqa, southwest of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
The letter read: “Minister Deri: I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s and lives in Beit Ur al-Fouqa. This could be my last opportunity to see her.”
“I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” Tlaib’s letter added.
The Michigan Congresswoman yesterday shared a photo of her grandmother on Twitter, writing: “This woman right here is my sity [Arabic for ‘my grandma’]. She deserves to live in peace & with human dignity. I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”
This woman right here is my sity. She deserves to live in peace & with human dignity. I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening. pic.twitter.com/GGcFLiH9N3
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 15, 2019
In response, Israel’s Interior Ministry this morning issued a statement saying that Tlaib would be allowed to enter the country on “humanitarian grounds”. Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Security, Gilad Erdan, argued that Tlaib’s request must be approved “mainly in light of the need to respect Israeli law and not to advance the boycott against us”.
This comes after Tlaib was yesterday banned from entering Israel for a planned diplomatic visit with Minnesota Congresswoman and fellow “Squad” member, Ilhan Omar. Though Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, had previously given Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer assurances that the lawmakers would be allowed to enter “out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America”, Israel subsequently reneged on its promise and barred the duo’s entry.
After a high profile meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior Israeli establishment figures yesterday, it was announced that the pair would be banned in line with Israel’s 2017 anti-BDS law, under which supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement can be prevented from entering the country.
The move reportedly came at the behest of US President Donald Trump, who allegedly told his close advisers this weekend that he thought Israel should prevent Tlaib and Omar entering the country. “If [they] want to boycott Israel then Israel should boycott them,” the President reportedly said.
President Trump has since doubled down on this position on Twitter, writing yesterday that “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.”
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. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
He has also lashed out at the two progressive Congresswomen, lambasting them as “the face of the Democrat Party,” and adding that “they HATE Israel!”
Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
Both Israel’s decision to ban Tlaib and Omar and the US president’s apparent intervention have come under fierce criticism from across the political spectrum.
The US’ Democratic Party has rallied around its Congresswomen, with 2020 presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and others being quick to condemn the decision.
In a rare move, prominent Israel advocacy groups have also broken ranks with the Trump administration and Netanyahu government, with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeting that even though it disagrees with Tlaib and Omar’s support for BDS, “we also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand”.
We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) August 15, 2019
Meanwhile in Israel, leader of the left-wing Democratic Union party Nitzan Horowitz slammed the move as a “grave mistake”, while prominent party member Tamar Zandberg called the move “fundamentally wrong and diplomatically foolish”.
Yousef Jabareen, a veteran Knesset Member (MK) for the Joint List – an alliance of predominantly Arab-Israeli parties – said in a statement that “when you prevent two American congresswomen from entering the country, you only demonstrate the extent to which the occupation further isolates Israel from the family of nations”.
Netanyahu’s biggest rival in the country’s upcoming general election, head of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) party Benny Gantz, also criticised the government’s decision as causing “international damage to Israel”, labelling the move “contradictory to [Israel’s] national interest”.
3/3 ב-17.9 נחליף את משטר נתניהו במנהיגות ששמה את ישראל לפני הכל.
— בני גנץ – Benny Gantz (@gantzbe) August 16, 2019