Israel Will Allow U.S. Lawmaker Tlaib to Make Humanitarian Visit

Ivan Levingston

(Bloomberg) -- Israel said on Friday it will allow U.S. Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit her family for humanitarian reasons, a day after barring her and a fellow Muslim lawmaker from entering the country under heavy pressure from President Donald Trump.

The permission allows Tlaib to meet her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank, the country’s interior minister said in a statement, adding that the lawmaker agreed in a letter not to restate her support for a boycott of Israel during the visit. That was a condition laid out by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a firm Trump ally.

On Thursday, Trump had tweeted that Tlaib and Representative Ilhan Omar -- both of whom he has targeted in recent weeks -- “hate Israel & all Jewish people,” and that allowing them entry would be a sign of “weakness.”

His unprecedented intervention and the decision by Netanyahu’s government to block the women’s privately funded trip visit sparked furor among Democrats and at least one prominent Republican -- Senator Marco Rubio -- in the U.S., who denounced the action. The staunchly pro-Israel group American Israel Public Affairs Committee also said the two lawmakers should be allowed to visit.

U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman called the trip, supposed to start this weekend, “nothing more than an effort to fuel the BDS engine,” referencing the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement against Israel over the country’s treatment of Palestinians, which Omar and Tlaib have voiced support for.

The decision to block the visit reversed a previous announcement in July, from Israeli envoy to the U.S. Ron Dermer, that Israel would permit the women to enter out of respect for Congress.

Netanyahu faces voters in mid-September, and with his close bond to Trump as one of his chief bragging points, he can ill afford to alienate the U.S. president. Trump has seized on Omar and Tlaib, among other freshman Democrats, to argue that the Democratic Party is too extreme as he faces his own re-election campaign next year.

(Updates with context on reaction and political implications.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ivan Levingston in Tel Aviv at ilevingston@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Benjamin Harvey

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.