Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib want to enter Israel, a nation they despise and would like to see destroyed as a Jewish state. Israel initially agreed to their visit.
Today, however, the government changed its mind. The two Israel-haters will not be allowed in.
Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement that explained his decision this way:
As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any visitor and to any criticism, with one exception: The law in Israel forbids the entry of people calling for and acting to placing a boycott on Israel, as is the norm in other democracies that prevent the entry of people whom they see as harming the country.
Fair enough, I think. However, neither Israeli law nor the stance of Omar and Tlaib has changed since Israel decided to permit the two congresswomen to visit.
What changed? Netanyahu said the government received the itinerary of the two “only a few days ago.” The itinerary “made clear that they are planning a trip whose entire purpose was supporting the boycott and eroding Israel’s legitimacy.”
Netanyahu noted that the two “defined the destination of their trip as ‘Palestine’ and not as ‘Israel,’ and in contrast with all other Democratic and Republican members of Congress until now, they refrained from requesting any meeting with an Israeli official, either in the government or in the opposition.”
None of this should have surprised the government. What I believe caused Netanyahu to change his decision was President Trump’s position. 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!
Democrats, especially those running for president, tripped over each other in ripping Israel’s decision. To me that’s a sign that the decision is a good one, but it still must be evaluated on the merits.
Omar and Tlaib put Israel in a difficult position, which surely was one of their goals. Allowing them into Israel to further their boycott agenda, complete with photo ops, would have been a bad outcome. Barring the two, gives them something like martyr status in some important quarters and alienates congressional Democrats — also a bad outcome.
It must have difficult for Israel to determine which outcome is worse. Trump’s position that the two should be barred tilted the balance.
When making close calls, Netanyahu is well advised to follow the advice of his (and Israel’s) very good friend, the president of the United States.