Israel Allows Barred US Lawmaker To Make Humanitarian Visit To West Bank

Rep. Ilhan Omar left and Rep. Rashida Tlaib at a news conference on Capitol Hill last July

Rep. Ilhan Omar left and Rep. Rashida Tlaib at a news conference on Capitol Hill last July

The trip was planned by Miftah, an organization headed by Palestinian peace negotiator Hanan Ashrawi, and was supposed to start on Sunday. It was not immediately clear if they had planned to meet with Israeli officials, and spokespeople for the two congresswomen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Trump, who has a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has frequently feuded with the lawmakers and in remarks widely condemned as racist, told them to "go back" to the countries that their families were from.

Deri's office published what it said was Tlaib's written request, on congressional stationary.

Israel's announcement came Thursday shortly after President Trump lobbied on Twitter for the ban. He went on to call the two congresswomen "a disgrace".

His statement on the decision, however, made no mention of pressure from Trump, focusing instead on the proposed itinerary, that their "sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel's legitimacy".

Netanyahu's decision has been criticized by some leaders in his own country and roundly denounced by top USA lawmakers from both parties.

Last we checked, both the United States and Israel were democracies - and allies. They are USA citizens.

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The two U.S. lawmakers have yet to comment on the decision. "Tlaib & Omar on Israel & am the author of the [boycott, divestment and sanctions movement] bill we passed in the Senate", Rubio tweeted on Thursday. "I can't allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me", she wrote. Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, normally one of Mr Netanyahu's most loyal defenders and a critic of the two Democratic congresswomen over their remarks on Israel, attacked the decision.

According to The Washington Post, "Tlaib said she had decided not to travel to Israel under conditions that would have included a pledge in writing not to "promote boycotts against Israel" while there", an unacceptable provision for the Michigan Democrat.

Several on the Right were, by contrast, supportive of Israel's decision to deny entry to people who want to undermine and weaken the country.

Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim activists deny.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week. Palestinians hope to establish an independent state on those lands.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib, left, and Ilhan Omar at a rally with Democrats in the Capitol, March 13, 2019.

But Israel has had a longstanding policy of not allowing BDS supporters to enter the country.

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In July, the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution against the BDS movement.

Halie Sofier, the executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, argued that the decision is "counterproductive and plays into President Trump's goal of politicizing support for Israel".

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". The congresswomen were also expected to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall and Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin community that Israel seeks to demolish.

The president's comments came after Israeli officials confirmed they chose to bar the Congresswomen from entering Israel.

Last month, Tlaib tweeted that the resolution was "unconstitutional" and aimed to "silence" opposition to Israel's policies.

In a letter to Aryeh Deri, Israel's minister of the interior, Tlaib requested admittance to visit family "specifically my grandmother who is in her 90s" and who lives in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa.

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