Netanyahu unlikely to bar Ilhan Omar, though law gives him power to do so

Israel has a law the grants the government authority to ban pro-BDS activists from entering the country. The law has been used sporadically over the past two years.

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July 19, 2019 00:13
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel is unlikely to bar entry to US Rep. Ilhan Omar, who plans to visit next month, even though an anti-BDS law gives the government the authority to do so, according to a government source.

Omar on Wednesday introduced a new “pro-boycott” of Israel resolution in Congress, “affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the [US] Constitution.”

On the same day that she introduced the bill, she announced she planned to visit Israel. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Both have drawn extensive fire for controversial comments regarding Israel and several statements deemed antisemitic.

One government official told The Jerusalem Post that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Council was reviewing the issue and would offer him recommendations on how to respond.

According to the dry law in Israel that has been on the books for some two years, Omar – whose legislation implicitly calls for the boycott of Israel – could be denied entry. This law has only been used sporadically since being legislated.

Israel has been gearing up for a possible visit by the two controversial congresswomen for weeks, and the Post reported last month that a meeting on the matter was already held in May.

Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar, who is a former diplomat, reacted to Omar’s decision to come to Israel by saying that her visit is an attempt to “improve her relations with Israel supporters in the Democratic Party. It will not work. She should instead come and meet with former MK Haneen Zoabi and learn how politics based on hate marginalizes you and leaves you forgotten.”

In contrast, MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) attacked Netanyahu for even considering not permitting the congresswomen into the country and said he must let them in.

“After [US President Donald] Trump attacked them [in recent tweets] with racism, Netanyahu is mulling preventing their entrance into Israel,” she said. “Omar and Tlaib represent world public opinion – against the occupation and in favor of Palestinian independence. They will continue to make their voices heard whether they are allowed to enter or not, and Netanyahu will not be able to act like a swan and hide the occupation.”

It is not yet clear when the visit would take place, but it is not expected to overlap with a much larger delegation of US representatives that is coming in early organized by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

AIEF, as it has done for years during the summer Congressional recess during non-election years, will bring freshmen Democrats and Republicans on two different trips.

 The trip for the Democrats is from August 5-11, while the one for the Republicans is from August 9-15. The delegations will hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem on one of the days that the two trips overlap.

There are currently 101 freshmen representatives: 37 Republicans and 64 Democrats. Democratic House majority leader Steny Hoyer and Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy are scheduled to lead the AIEF trips. It is not yet clear how many people will join the AIEF trips, but because of the large freshman class, it is expected to be one of the largest Congressional delegations ever.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report


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