By Tarik Johnson
U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib will not be allowed to enter Israel for their planned trip to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Tzipi Hotovely, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister told Israel’s Reshet Bet Radio, “The decision has been made, the decision is not to allow them to enter.”
Before the decision was made, President Trump tweeted, “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!”
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, “There is no country in the world that respects the U.S. and the American Congress more than Israel, however, the itinerary showed that the congresswomen’s sole intention was to harm Israel.”
Netanyahu added that if Tlaib, of Palestinian descent, submitted a request to visit family members in the occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds, Israel would consider it as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel. Omar and Tlaib have sponsored a resolution that would allow the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to operate on the basis of free speech. The BDS movement describes itself as an organization that works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. Under Israeli law, backers of the BDS movement can be denied entry to Israel.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israeli lobbying group, said that the congresswomen should still be able to go despite their views. After the news of the ban broke, AIPAC tweeted, “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.”
Last month Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said the two would be allowed to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories. "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 said at the time. The two lawmakers planned a tour of the holy compound in Jerusalem that houses al-Aqsa mosque, revered by Jews as the site of two biblical Jewish temples, which has turned into an issue of contention, according to sources familiar with preparations for the visit. The flashpoint site is in an area of Jerusalem that Israel captured and annexed along with the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war in a move not internationally recognized.
An official in Israel’s Internal Security Ministry said any visit by Tlaib and Omar to the complex, revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and by Jews as the Temple Mount, would require Israeli security protection. The two lawmakers refused to be escorted by Israeli security while visiting the site, as they believe Muslims have a right to pray there, organizers in Israel and America told CNN.
Former Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, who is a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, said he would welcome the two congresswomen into the country, but only if they would "listen and learn."
"If I would be convinced that they came to listen and learn in how this country works, how Jerusalem works, how our political system works," Barkat told Israeli news channel i24NEWS on Tuesday, "I would consider it ... convincing people that [Israel's] path is the right path is the high road I think we should take."