Israel’s Interior Ministry on Friday said it will allow United States Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to enter the country on “humanitarian grounds”, reported AFP. This came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from making a planned trip to the country after US President Donald Trump reportedly called on his ally not to let them in, Reuters reported.
“The decision has been made, the decision is not to allow them to enter,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely had said.
Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin, has been allowed to visit her grandmother in the Israeli-occupied West Bank after she pledged “to respect conditions imposed by Israel”.
In a letter to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, Tlaib “promised not to promote the cause of the boycott of Israel during her stay”, the ministry said in a statement. “I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s,” she said in her letter. “This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”
In a tweet on Thursday, Trump wrote: “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!”
Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and are vocal critics of Trump and of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. They have voiced their support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement over Israel’s policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under Israeli law, BDS supporters can be denied entry to Israel.
Omar called Netanyahu’s decision an “affront” and “an insult to democratic values”. Tlaib reacted to the decision by posting a picture on Twitter of her grandmother who lives in the West Bank village, with the message: “I am who I am because of her.”
The move was also condemned by many Democratic leaders in the United States as well as by Palestinians.
Both the Congresswomen had planned to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, and territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war over the weekend.
“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,” Netanyahu had claimed.
Trump has in recent months been very critical of Tlaib, Omar and two other first-term Democratic Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. He had asked the four women to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” last month. At a recent rally in North Carolina, supporters chanted slogans against Omar and said “Send Her Back” after Trump falsely accused her of supporting al Qaeda.
Omar represents a Minnesota congressional district, and immigrated to the United States from Somalia as a child. Talib was born in the United States but has roots in the West Bank.