Israel will allow Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit her family in the occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds, the interior ministry said on Friday, after barring an official visit under pressure from U.S. President Trump.
Israel’s interior ministry said in a statement it “decided on Friday to approve the entry of U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for a humanitarian visit to her 90-year-old grandmother.”
This follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration on Thursday that he would not allow Tlaib and her fellow Democrat congresswoman Ilhan Omar, both Democrats, to make a planned trip to the country. “As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception,” he said. “Israel’s law prohibits the entry of people who call and act to boycott Israel, as is the case with other democracies that prevent the entry of people whom they see as harming the country.”
Controversial support for ‘BDS’ movement
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.
However, Netanyahu also said on Thursday 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.
Tlaib sent a letter to Israel’s Ministry of Interior on Thursday requesting permission “to visit relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s”, adding that it
“could be my last opportunity to see her”.
“I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” Tlaib wrote in the request, which was circulated by the Ynet website Ynet and other Israeli media.
Shortly before Netanyahu’s statement on Thursday, Trump had tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed them to visit. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” He went on to call the two congresswomen “a disgrace”.
Republicans have amplified the views of left-wing Democrats like Tlaib and Omar to present the party as deeply divided and at odds with Israel. Democratic leaders have pushed back, reiterating the party’s strong support for Israel, in part to protect representatives from more conservative districts.
In July, the Democratic-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution against the BDS movement.
Tlaib and Omar have also been the target of repeated attacks by President Donald Trump in recent months, including a series of racist tweets on July 14 in which he said they should “go back” to the “broken” countries they came from. Both are US citizens and Tlaib was born in the United States.
The two are members of the so-called “Squad” of newly-elected left-wing Democrats, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
(FRANCE 24, REUTERS, AP and AFP)