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Under pressure from Trump, Israel bars U.S. Democratic lawmakers

36 Comments
By Maayan Lubell and Patricia Zengerle

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday barred U.S. Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from making a planned trip to Israel, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump called on his ally not to let them in.

Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, are members of their party's progressive wing and sharp critics both of Trump and of Israel's policy toward the Palestinians.

The moves, which were immediately condemned by many Democratic leaders in the United States as well as Palestinians, could help whip up support among Trump and Netanyahu's conservative voter bases as they head into election campaigns.

Israel holds a national election on Sept 17 and Trump faces re-election in November 2020.

Tlaib and Omar have voiced support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement over Israel's policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under Israeli law, BDS backers can be denied entry to Israel.

Omar called Thursday's decision an "affront" and "an insult to democratic values."

Israel had initially chosen to allow the visit. A source who took part in consultations Netanyahu held with cabinet members and advisers on Wednesday told Reuters that Israel backtracked due to pressure from Trump. The pressure was reported by the Axios news site on Saturday but denied by the White House.

"In a discussion held two weeks ago all the officials were in favor of letting them in but, after Trump's pressure, they reversed the decision," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a tweet on Thursday, Trump wrote: "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep Omar and Rep Tlaib to visit ... They are a disgrace!"

Asked if he had spoken to Netanyahu about the planned visit, Trump told reporters: "I don't want to comment about who I spoke to, but I think my social media statement pretty well speaks for itself."

"But I did speak to people over there," he added.

Trump's request appeared to contravene a U.S. government policy that says the United States seeks "equal treatment and freedom to travel" for all U.S. citizens regardless of ethnicity. It says those denied entry should be given a written explanation by Israel.

Trump has in recent months accused Tlaib, Omar and two other first-term Democratic congresswomen of color - dubbed "the Squad" - of hostility to Israel in a barrage condemned by critics as racist and widely seen as a way to drum up votes for 2020.

Omar is a favorite target. At a recent rally in North Carolina, supporters chanted "send her back" after Trump falsely accused her of supporting al-Qaida.

The 37-year-old lawmaker who represents a Minnesota congressional district immigrated to the United States from Somalia as a child. U.S.-born Tlaib, 43, has roots in the West Bank.

Omar has been criticized for statements critical of Israel, including a 2012 tweet referring to the country’s "evil doings" and a tweet this year saying that support for Israel is all about money. Omar has apologized for such statements.

Israel's ambassador in the United States, Ron Dermer, had said last month that Tlaib and Omar would be let in, out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the liberal Jewish advocacy group J Street, said Trump's strategy was about appealing to his conservative base, which includes evangelicals hawkish on Israel.

"This not a strategy that is primarily aimed at the Jewish community," Ben-Ami said. "It’s become another culture war issue."

No date had been formally announced for the congresswomen's trip, but sources familiar with the planning said it could begin over the weekend. They had planned to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, which Palestinians want for a state.

Netanyahu said that Israel had the utmost respect for Congress but that Tlaib and Omar were promoting legislation calling for boycotts against Israel.

"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 said.

Netanyahu could easily feel he owes Trump a favor after some of the U.S. president's decisions, such as recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, withdrawing from the Iran nuclear accord and moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

However, denying entry to elected U.S. officials was likely to further strain relations between Netanyahu, who has highlighted his close ties with Trump in his current re-election campaign, and the Democratic leadership in Congress.

"Israel doesn't advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering U.S. ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views. This would be a shameful, unprecedented move," Democratic presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, said in a statement: "Denying entry to members of the United States Congress is a sign of weakness, not strength. It will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America."

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official with the Palestine Liberation Organization and founder of Miftah, a West Bank-based nongovernmental organization that is co-sponsoring the trip, called the decision to block it "an affront to the American people and their representatives."

"This ban is a clear case of discrimination and hostility based on political views and ethnic background, deserving of moral indignation and unequivocal condemnation in Palestine and the United States," Ashrawi said in a statement.

The Palestinians have broken off diplomatic ties with the Trump administration over what they see as its heavily pro-Israel bias.

Tlaib's grandmother and extended family live in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa.

"We were surprised today that they banned Rashida. It is unfair and racist that they banned her from visiting her country Palestine and her family in Palestine," said her uncle, Bassam Tlaib.

Netanyahu said that if Tlaib submitted a request to visit family on humanitarian grounds, Israel would consider it as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

36 Comments

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Another political stunt aimed at distracting the media because of the economy concerns, trade wars failures, border/immigration failure, and revoking iran nuclear deal failure.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

If the Israelis do not allow access to US government officials, we should stop subsidizing them.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Trump never passes up an opportunity to be petty. This one looks especially bad for him.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

This ban is a clear case of discrimination and hostility based on political views and ethnic background, deserving of moral indignation and unequivocal condemnation in Palestine and the United States," Ashrawi said in a statement.

It's a disgrace, no doubt about it. Trump's comments about the women were disgusting. Once again, the administrations in both the US and Israel shows their complete lack of regard for Palestine and progress.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Trump had nothing to do with it. It’s because Tlaib and Omar planned to separate from the Democratic delegation and hold an anti-Semitic rally in the Gaza Strip with Hamas. For security reasons Israel had to say no.

-19 ( +1 / -20 )

@cla68 Trump had nothing to do with it.

Is this what the Internet Research Agency is reporting. Or is it an assigned flame.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Tlaib and Omar planned to separate from the Democratic delegation and hold an anti-Semitic rally in the Gaza Strip with Hamas. For security reasons Israel had to say no.

Please give citations, otherwise this is just pure fantasy posted as fact.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

@cla68 Trump had nothing to do with it.

but.........

Israel had initially chosen to allow the visit. A source who took part in consultations Netanyahu held with Cabinet members and advisers on Wednesday told Reuters that Israel backtracked due to pressure from Trump.

LOL!

15 ( +15 / -0 )

On the one hand, I think America needs to cut a whole bunch of ties to Israel and stop giving its government money and weapons. On the other hand Israel is an undeclared nuclear nation surrounded by countries that would love to see it vulnerable. Israel would start a nuclear WWIII before going down.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

American Democracy in action.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

the trip itself is just a publicity stunt. Good that they were denied, we don’t need them overseas creating international incidents.

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

This is what happens when the president runs the country as though it's his own private country club and he gets to control everything by himself.

If PM Netanyahu and the Israeli government want to behave like Israel is their own exclusive private country club, then the U.S. Congress can and should be much tougher in how it supports and funds Israel.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Trump had nothing to do with it.

Fake news.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

It's not ethical for a man, to force a woman down.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Trump had nothing to do with it. 

Israel: They can come.

Trump: I don't want them to go. They mustn't go.

Israel: OK, they can't come.

Trump: Looks like my tweet speaks for itself.

Israeli source: This was because of Trump.

cla68: This must have been because of imaginary antisemitism that only exists in my brain

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Who banned their travel, Trump or Netanyahu? Israel wants to ban elected members of congress which also gives the country $4 billion every year.

US To Send $7,000 Per MINUTE To Israel

The US is on the verge of enacting legislation to send $38 billion to Israel – 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50705.htm

Is Netanyahu so afraid of these women?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I don't really like the idea of opposition lawmakers going to other countries as delegations. I think a country's internal affairs may be divided, but external affairs should be unified. The Republicans were in the wrong for starting this in the last administration, and it's not a good idea for the Democrats to start doing it now.

I don't think people should be banned from doing so - such would be a restriction of rights and freedoms. But I have some issues with the ethics of it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

An insult to democracy

That's a pretty apt description of Apartheid regimes, isn't it.

Also 'a crime against humanity'.

And another pretty apt description, this time for the Israeli regime in particular, 'a betrayal of modern Judaism'.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Netanyahu believes Israel is only for the Jews. Trump believes America is only for the Christian whites.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with the fact that anti-Semitism is rife within the Democratic Party.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

@burningbuhThis has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with the fact that anti-Semitism is rife within the Democratic Party.

Is this what the Internet Research Agency is reporting. Or is it an assigned flame.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Another political stunt aimed at distracting the media because of the economy concerns, trade wars failures, border/immigration failure, and revoking iran nuclear deal failure.

Wholeheartedly agree - this is Deflecting Donnie dodging his major flip-flip yesterday and open admission of his lie that "China is paying for the tariffs, not consumers."

Without this bit of news today, the media would be talking about how he had to cave and pull back on the tariffs because it would slow consumer spending over Christmas.

Donnie knows any kind of racist-themed tweet will overpower any bad news...

That's how sick he is...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This has nothing to do with Trump

Yes, it has. Trump was involved in this.

Fake news.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

So it’s “racist” now that these 2 who deny the right of Israel to even exist can’t go there? They are advocating to boycott Israel. So Israel just boycotted them first.

AOC said she won’t go either in “solidarity”. That’s a 2 for 1 win right there.

-11 ( +0 / -11 )

Was wondering where all this incessant “racism” talk was coming from. It’s a liberal media collaboration to pivot away from the failed Russia nonsense. Got caught saying it on tape. Trying to apply racism here to this cancelled trip but it simply doesn’t fit.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/new-york-times-chief-outlines-coverage-shift-from-trump-russia-to-trump-racism

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

Trump diverting the media away from the China so easy to win trade war.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Time.com

Israel Bans Reps. Omar and Tlaib From Entry Over Support for Boycotts

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

"These two women are elected representatives. They represent lots of people in their home states in Michigan and in Minnesota, and they have a constitutional right and duty to travel overseas to help this country have an effective foreign policy. The precedent here is also very dangerous. The president now gives an excuse to Russia or to China or other authoritarian regimes to deny entry of American members of Congress because those members have been critical of those countries, and so all around this is a very damaging day for the United States and it also gets to the point that the president has been extremely weak in foreign policy. He styles himself as kind of a strong man but he's not a strong man at all because the strongest power of the American presidency is to defend our democracy, to honor it, to honor human rights and freedom of speech. And these women, these representatives are now being denied that by the President of the United States."

--------- Ambassador Nicholas Burns (Former Under Secretary of Political Affairs)

Aug. 16, 2019

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Deny Israel’s right to exist. This is who they planned to go meet.

http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=433

so they most certainly do support both things I said.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Trump and Netanyahu both hate Muslims.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Just when the Russia conspiracy theories finally started to die down we have the fuel for Trump-Kuschner-Zionist connections that Democrats are pointing to as a new all consuming conspiracy to rally around.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

This has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with the fact that anti-Semitism is rife within the Democratic Party.

Fake news, comrade.

If anything, it's to do with the anti-Muslim sentiment that's rife in the Trumpist base.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Omar and Tliab are calling this a "Muslim ban."

Baloney. It's not a Muslim ban. It's an anti-Semite ban.

Good on Israel for keeping out these two anti-Semitic nutjobs.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

It’s got racist or anti Muslim or anything. Just common sense to not send troublemakers to the place they can resist yo make trouble.

I wouldn’t support Adam Schiff going to Russia on a Congressional trip either.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Baloney. It's not a Muslim ban. It's an anti-Semite ban.

Criticism of Israel does not equal anti-Semitism.

Good on Israel for keeping out these two anti-Semitic nutjobs.

I support Palestine, I boycott Israeli products and I want a 2 state solution. I want to see an end to the disproportionate killings by the Israeli state, the apartheid, use of chemical weapons, the illegal land grabs and horrific treatment of Palestinians over the last 70 years.

Shame on those who parrot the Trumpist propaganda.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

For those who don’t know, the US regular bars politicians from other countries from visiting and even using taking transfer flights on US territory.

Just last week the US barred entry to the Iranian Foreign Minister, an elected official.

It’s hypocrisy for any American to say that Israel shouldn’t have the right to sanction foreign politicians when Washington does it all the time.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

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