Netanyahu: Dermer did not misspeak when saying Omar, Tlaib could visit

Netanyahu leaves for Ukraine for 1st PM visit there in 20 years.

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August 19, 2019 00:57
2 minute read.
U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U

U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the U.S. Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump's attacks on four minority congresswomen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer did not speak out of turn last month when he said that Israel would permit a visit by two BDS-supporting US representatives. It was just that he did not know the specifics of their visit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Netanyahu’s comments about the ongoing brouhaha surrounding the decision to bar entry to Democratic representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were made at Ben-Gurion Airport as he was about to leave for a two-day visit to Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a televised interview on Saturday night that Dermer was speaking for himself, and not the government or Netanyahu, when he said on July 19 that the two anti-Israeli representatives would be allowed to visit because of Israel’s respect for the US Congress.

“When Ambassador Dermer spoke, there was not a specific request for these visits, and no specific schedule and itinerary,” Netanyahu said. “The minute they gave that to us, we studied it and the decision was made [not to let them in]. This is not a decision along partisan lines. It is one of principle. We respect equally all the parties in the United States, but we also respect ourselves. We will not allow entry to those who come to impose boycotts on us and to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu’s trip to Ukraine will be the first visit by an Israeli prime minister since he went there in 1999 during his first term in office, just weeks before he lost an election to Ehud Barak.

“I am going now on an important visit to Ukraine at the invitation of the new president, [Volodymyr] Zelensky,” he said. “We have hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who came from Ukraine and are a living bridge between the two countries, and the connection between us is getting stronger.”

Netanyahu said he will speak to Zelensky about establishing a free trade zone between the two countries, and about pensions for former Ukrainians now living in Israel.

Ukraine has agreed in principle to pay pensions to immigrants who came after Kiev declared independence in 1991, but this is an issue that is tangled up in government bureaucracy and has not yet passed in the Ukrainian parliament. If Netanyahu is able to get some kind of promise from the new Ukrainian president on this matter, it could resonate with the Russian-speaking immigrants he is trying to siphon away from Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beytenu party.

After laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Kiev on Tuesday, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with the new Ukrainian president, who is Jewish, followed by the signing of bilateral agreements and statements to the media. The two will then go to Babi Yar for a memorial ceremony.

Netanyahu will also meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who is also Jewish, followed by an Israeli innovation event and a meeting with Jewish community leaders. He is scheduled to return to Israel on Tuesday evening.


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