Israel: Banning U.S. lawmakers from visiting
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made himself “Donald Trump’s poodle,” said Eric Yoffie in Haaretz. His own ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, had announced last month that two American Muslim congresswomen, Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, would be allowed to visit this country despite their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. But then the U.S. president tweeted that it would “show great weakness” if Israel let in the lawmakers—two of his favorite foes—and Netanyahu quickly “played the shameless sycophant” and rescinded his permission. That’s because Netanyahu is deeply in debt to Trump, said Chemi Shalev, also in Haaretz. Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively ceding the divided city to Israel, and he recognized our sovereignty over the Golan Heights, once part of Syria. Netanyahu simply couldn’t ignore his plea now—especially not a month before an Israeli election. But it’s an ugly look for Israel. Trump’s rage against the lawmakers has more to do with “a long line of incidents proving his animus toward dark-skinned foreigners” than with their anti-Semitism.
Barring Tlaib and Omar is a no-brainer, said Eldad Beck in Israel Hayom. As congresswomen, these leftists could have visited Israel earlier this month, together with a delegation of 72 U.S. lawmakers on an AIPAC-sponsored trip. Instead, their proposed itinerary revealed that they wanted to visit not Israel, “a country whose right to exist they do not recognize,” but “Palestine”—a nation that doesn’t exist. Israel can refuse entry to any BDS supporter under a 2017 law, because their attempts to delegitimize the world’s only Jewish nation are not “deserving of tolerance.”
Yet this ban is already backfiring, said Orly Azoulay in Yedioth Ahronoth. Had the two lawmakers made their trip, Americans would have heard about “the poor conditions” in the Palestinian territories—something the foreign press routinely reports. But now Americans are having a whole conversation about “the deterioration of democracy in Israel” and whether our nation “is worthy of the massive financial support it receives”—some $3.8 billion a year in military aid alone. The BDS movement is getting priceless exposure, and “the word ‘apartheid’ is back in the political discourse.”
Worse, Netanyahu has openly aligned Israel with the U.S. Republican Party, said Marc Schulman in TimesOfIsrael.com. His move away from bipartisanship began in 2015, when Netanyahu—“in direct defiance of U.S. President Barack Obama”—addressed Congress at the invitation of Republicans and spoke against Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. Now he has forced the Democratic Party to rally behind two fringe congresswomen it would rather ignore. American Jews, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, are upset, and even the pro-Israel conservative lobby group AIPAC disapproves of the ban. Israel’s “most significant strategic advantage is its close relationship to the United States.” Will that evaporate the next time the Democrats take the White House? ■