Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave details behind the decision to ban Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering Israel and the West Bank on a Congressional delegation in a statement this afternoon that alleged the trip’s coordinator has terrorism ties and said “the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement.”
Here is the statement in full:
No country in the world respects America and the American Congress more than the State of Israel. As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: 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. In fact, in the past the US did this to an Israeli member of Knesset, as well as to other public figures from around the world. Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. 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. For instance: they listed the destination of their trip as Palestine and not Israel, and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have visited Israel, they did not request to meet any Israeli officials, either from the government or the opposition. A week ago, Israel warmly welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who expressed broad bipartisan support for Israel, which was also demonstrated a month ago in a resounding bipartisan vote against BDS in Congress. However, the itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it. In addition, the organization that is funding their trip is Miftah, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel. Therefore, the Minister of Interior has decided not to allow their visit, and I, as Prime Minister, support his decision. Nonetheless, if Congresswoman Tlaib submits a humanitarian request to visit her relatives, the minister of interior has announced that he will consider her request on the condition that she pledges not to act to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.
While Netanyahu did not expand on the alleged terrorism ties, in 2016, Miftah, the Palestinian public diplomacy group he named, organized a similar Congressional delegation to the West Bank and Jerusalem, bringing five members of the House to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, business-people, bankers and educators. The tour included a meeting with Shawan Jabareen, the director of the Palestinian legal rights group Al Haq. The trip came under fire when the Weekly Standard obtained a copy of the itinerary later that same year and identified Jabareen.
Jabareen was sentenced to nine months in an Israeli military prison in the 1980’s for membership in the student arm of the PFLP, a State Department designated terrorist organization. Jabareen, who has said his affiliation with the group ended in his youth, is one of the most renowned Palestinian human rights advocates today, having met with former President Jimmy Carter and spoken at the United Nations offices in Geneva. In recent years he has supported the Palestinian government in its attempts to open an investigation into Israel at the UN’s International Criminal Court.
Netanyahu’s mention of an Israeli official denied entry to the U.S. was an apparent reference to the State Department preventing Israel’s Michael Ben-Ari from entering in 2012 because he was a former member of a terrorist organization, Israel’s Kach movement.
I was looking forward to meeting Rep. Omar. I wanted to tell her what it’s like being a Palestinian citizen of Israel, facing state racism, including laws preventing us from buying homes in certain towns and actions baring us from parks. What does Israel have to hide? #LetThemIn
— MK Aida Touma-Sliman (@AidaTuma) August 15, 2019
Miftah responded to reports of Tlaib and Omar’s travel ban earlier today, stating the decision was “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.”
While the group did not reveal any of the stops on the itinerary, Aida Touma-Sliman, a Palestinian member of Israel’s Knesset from the Hadash-Ta’al party indicated over social media that she had planned to meet with the delegation.
Please read my attached statement with regard to the decision of the Government of Israel to deny entry to BDS activists, Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, in accordance with its national laws. pic.twitter.com/q9M2N1uRkr
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) August 15, 2019
In the afternoon David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador issued a charged statement accusing Tlaib and Omar of “no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish state.”
“Israel properly has enacted laws to bar entry of BDS activists under the circumstances present here, and it has every right to protect its borders against those activists in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons,” he said.