Israel Changes Its Position On Barring Democratic Congresswoman From Entering Country, Rep. Tlaib Says No Thanks

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Written by Dana Sanchez
A trash trolly decorated with a photo of U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a demonstration by the Islamic militant group Hamas in front of U.N. headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, June 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

A day after Israel said it was barring two U.S. congresswomen from visiting the country, it has changed its position in the face of a backlash, saying it will let at least one of the two lawmakers in.

But the change of heart came too late. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and the daughter of Palestinian immigrants on Friday called off her visit to the West Bank, Wall Street Journal reported. She was planning to visit her grandmother.

At U.S. President Donald Trump’s request, Israel on Thursday denied permission for Rep. Tlaib and Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Both elected U.S. officials support the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, or BDS. They’ve been accused of trying to “boycott and negate Israel’s legitimacy,” NBC News reported.

Facing blowback from Jewish American donors, Israel changed its position overnight and decided it was a bad idea to stop Rep. Tlaib from entering the country.

Tlaib she said Friday she didn’t want to visit under the conditions imposed by Israel, who she accused of “silencing me and treating me like a criminal.”

“I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,” she said in a tweet.

The powerful pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC — American Israel Public Affairs Committee — suggested on Thursday it opposed Israel’s Trump-supported travel ban.

“We believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” AIPAC tweeted early Thursday afternoon.

By supporting a travel ban for U.S. lawmakers, Trump has gone too far, tweeted Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal advocacy organization working to end the Arab-Israeli and Israel-Palestinian conflicts diplomatically.

“Hugely significant. Potentially groundbreaking. First time I remember @aipac publicly disagreeing with a government of Israel decision. Memo to the PM and @AmbDermer – when you’ve lost AIPAC in your efforts to play to @realDonaldTrump, you’ve clearly gone too far,” Ben-Ami tweeted.

Reps. Tlaib and Omar are members of the Squad, — four Democratic congresswomen who have championed progressive policy proposals and are popular not only among liberal Democrats but a cross-section of the American public.

Today, Israel made a reversal.

“Interior Minister Aryeh Deri decided on Friday to approve the entry of US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for a humanitarian visit of her 90-year-old grandmother,” according to a statement.

Tlaib sent a letter asking to be granted access and she promised to not promote boycotts against Israel and to respect the restrictions imposed on her during her visit, the interior ministry said early Friday. Her request was granted and the interior ministry “expressed hope that she would honor her commitment,” according to NBC.

A U.S. president calling for members of his own government to be shut out of a foreign country is highly unusual, but unsurprising given Trump’s strategy of war — to divide and conquer.

Trump’s request appeared to contradict a U.S. government policy that says the U.S. seeks “equal treatment and freedom to travel” for all U.S. citizens regardless of ethnicity.

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Analysts said, “This is just part of (Trump’s) supersmart base strategy,” Aaron Blake wrote for the Washington Post. “He’s making members of ‘the squad’ into his 2020 campaign opponents!”

How much has the U.S. given to Israel in grants and aid?

As elected officials, Tlaib and Omar vote on federal assistance.

Since 1985, the U.S. has provided nearly $3 billion per year in grants to Israel. Israel was the largest annual recipient of U.S. aid from 1976 to 2004, according to the Congressional Research Service. It is also the largest cumulative recipient of aid ($121 billion, not inflation-adjusted) since World War II.

Israel is also one of the few developed countries where opinion about the U.S. has improved since Trump took office, New York Times reported. More than 75 percent of American Jews voted for Democrats in the midterm elections, but a vocal minority of Jews in the U.S. strongly support Trump. By contrast, 69 percent of Israelis have confidence in Trump, up from 49 percent who had confidence in Barack Obama in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. A vocal minority of Jews in Israel don’t like the U.S. president.

“The American president appears to support the Jews of Israel more than the Jews of the United States,” wrote Jane Eisner in a guest column for Time.

Israel’s increasingly conservative policies on social and religious issues are often at odds with what most American Jews support, according to The Conversation.

Outside of federal grants, the top U.S. funding organizations to Israeli causes are Jewish Federations and communal fundraising institutions that operate in most North American metropolitan areas. These federations gave Israeli causes $2.3 billion between 2000 and 2015. Donations dropped, however, after the Great Recession, according to Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim, an expert in North American Jewish philanthropy.

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