Democratic lawmaker Rashida Tlaib says she won't visit Israel after all, citing restrictions

Israel said on Friday (Aug 16) it will let the lawmaker visit her family, a day after barring entry by her and fellow Muslim Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Israel said on Friday (Aug 16) it will let the lawmaker visit her family, a day after barring entry by her and fellow Muslim Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Rashida Tlaib, the Democratic House member barred by Israel because of her support of a boycott, said she does not plan to accept the country's new offer to let her visit her grandmother in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds.

"Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in - fighting against racism, oppression & injustice," the Michigan lawmaker said Friday (Aug 16) on Twitter.

Israel said Friday it will let Tlaib visit her family, a day after barring entry by her and fellow Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, also a Muslim, under heavy pressure from President Donald Trump.

Trump said in a Twitter post Thursday that Israel would show "weakness" if it let the two into the country.

Israel's subsequent decision to allow Tlaib to meet her grandmother in the West Bank came after Tlaib agreed in a letter not to restate her support for a boycott of Israel during the visit, the country's interior minister said in a statement. That was a condition Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a firm Trump ally, had laid out.

Trump's unprecedented intervention and the decision by Netanyahu's government to block the women's privately funded trip sparked furore among Democrats and at least one prominent Republican - Senator Marco Rubio - in the US.

The staunchly pro-Israel group American Israel Public Affairs Committee also said the two lawmakers should be allowed to visit.

 
 
 
 

US 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, who Omar and Tlaib have voiced support for.

The decision to block the visit reversed a previous announcement in July, from Israeli Ambassador to the US 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 US president.

Trump has seized on Omar and Tlaib, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, to argue that the Democratic Party is too extreme as he faces his own re-election campaign next year.

Tlaib rejected the offer, saying that her family would not want her to agree to Israel's restrictions and "bow down to their oppressive & racist policies."

"When I won, it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions. I can't allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me," she said on Twitter Friday.