UPDATE: The State of Israel made the decision on Thursday to bar Tlaib and Omar from entering the country because of their support of the BDS movement.
Two prominent far-left congresswomen and the only two Muslims in the House may be denied entry into Israel, according to a government official who spoke with CNN.
Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib both support the boycott, divest, and sanctions movement and have made statements that many — including many Democrats — consider anti-Semitic. But neither has advocated violence against the Jewish state nor claimed Israel has no right to exist.
“There is a possibility that Israel will not allow the visit in its current proposed format. Professional teams and legal counsel in various government ministries are continuing to examine the decision,” the government official told CNN.
The Israeli government would not bar Omar and Tlaib lightly.
On Wednesday, the Israeli Prime Minister, interior minister, foreign minister, minister of internal security, the head of the national security council and the attorney general all met to discuss a final decision on the issue of the congresswomen’s visit, the sources said, which is scheduled to take place from August 18 to 22. None of the offices would comment on what about the “current proposed format” of the trip concerned the Israeli government.
Some of the congresswomen’s itineraries are controversial:
Tlaib and Omar, who are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, planned to visit one of the holiest and most sensitive sites in Jerusalem, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount. 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. The two congresswomen also planned to meet with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists and representatives of human rights organizations. They were to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron. There were no plans to meet officials, organizers said.
Omar and Tlaib are, like it or not, representatives of the U.S. government and the American people. They may be ignorant, shallow and bigoted, but unless the Israeli government can prove them to be a threat to Israel’s security, they should be allowed to enter the country. Where they go while there is a matter for Israeli security.
If the Israelis deny entry to the two congresswomen, it would be a reversal of a policy announced by Israel’s U.S. Ambassador Ron Dermer:
“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 in widely reported comments. Dermer is considered one of those closest to Netanyahu.
There are matters of politics and then there are matters of state. As much as many of us despise the politics of Omar and Tlaib, they are elected representatives on legitimate business. As a democracy, Israel recognizes this and while the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu no doubt would be satisfied if the two Muslim congresswomen changed their minds and decided not to come to Israel, Israel should respect the U.S. government as an institution and allow the visit to go forward.