Today, Israel’s Minister of Interior denied requests for U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to enter Israel. Within the past decade, Israel has started banning people from entering the country who support the BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement against Israel. These two representatives were denied entry into Israel on these grounds as both openly support BDS.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office stated today: “Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country.”
The United States has a similar law on its books banning visitors who plan to arrive with the intent to disrupt its democracy. At a macro level, this law makes sense. I will admit that Israel is taking a very stern stance against Omar and Talib. However, I can understand the Israeli government’s point of view.
Regardless, the Trump administration in tangent with the Prime Minister’s Office did a terrible job at broadcasting the appropriate message for this situation. When submitting paperwork, both Omar and Talib listed “Palestine” as their destination, unlike all other representatives that recently visited Israel. Funding for their trip came from Miftah, an extreme pro-Palestinian organization that outwardly supports BDS. Miftah has praised Palestinian terrorists as the “resistance.”
So, two pro-BDS congresswomen wanted to visit Israel, listed Palestine as their destination on their itinerary, and received funding from a radical organization. Did they expect entry into Israel? Do they support a bilateral peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian People? Doubtful.
The PR crisis began when 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!.”
This tweet set off a spiral that has damaged both the Trump administration and the Prime Minister’s Office concurrently. The Knesset is allowed to admit and deny entrance into Israel, but when Trump started influencing the process for his political gain, the situation began to get messy. It should be Israel’s decision alone to admit or deny these two congresswomen without the influence of the US President.
When Trump decided to interject, he reinforced the idea that the Trump Administration is working in tandem with the Israeli Government. Well, Trump has a -10% net approval rating nationwide. His net approval rating is significantly lower in states such as New York and California, where many Jews reside.
Even though he claims to be, I’m not entirely sure Trump is the right ally for Israel. He distorted the correct message for this situation that Omar and Tlaib were denied entry since they openly call for BDS. Instead, he made this situation about himself, in typical Trump fashion. Trump is actively dividing the United States, Israel, and Jews around the world.