Confronting Democrats

On the one hand, it is a decision that has the potential to create irreparable damage to Israel.

August 17, 2019 21:30
3 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)

The decision to bar Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering Israel is a story that combines political interests in Washington and Jerusalem, the BDS movement, the future of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States and much more.

On the one hand, it is a decision that has the potential to create irreparable damage to Israel. Still today, members of the Democratic Party recall Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “insult” – as they call it – to President Barack Obama when he spoke before Congress in 2015 against the Iran deal. Many refer to that moment in time as the breaking point in ties between the party and the Jewish state.

The decision not to let Omar and Tlaib into Israel – on Friday the government agreed to let Tlaib cross into the West Bank to visit her grandmother but she has decided not to – could be remembered as another moment like the 2015 speech.

By reversing an earlier decision to let the congresswomen in, Israel – in one fell swoop – aligned the entire Democratic Party behind its two most radical and extreme members. It essentially gave Tlaib and Omar a gift they could not have imagined – propelling them to a status that even the mighty country of Israel is afraid of what they would do if allowed inside its borders.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who just a few days ago led a delegation of 41 Democratic congressmen and women to Israel and voiced amazing support for the country, came out fiercely against the decision to block Tlaib and Omar.

“Israel is a strong and resilient nation,” Hoyer agreed. “It is a robust democracy with a wide divergence of views and opinions, as is the United States. This action reflects weakness, not strength.”

We agree with Hoyer. Israel has nothing to hide and the damage caused by blocking the congresswomen – the continued fraying of bipartisan support in the US for Israel – far outweighs the potential damage they would have caused on their trip here. They would have tweeted against the occupation and made some small provocations in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. So what? It would have made them look extreme and radical.

Now, they are martyrs.

The reason this move has the potential to further unravel bipartisan support for Israel is because the Jewish state is being used, in this case, as a political football by President Donald Trump.

Trump’s call for Israel to bar them from entering the country wasn’t done out of concern for the Jewish state. He is using Omar and Tlaib for political purposes. By getting the entire Democratic establishment to support them, he is attempting to expose what he believes is the true face of the party ahead of the 2020 election. He wants to demonize the Democratic Party, and there is no better way to do that than by highlighting its most radical members.

We understand that Netanyahu was in a bind. On the one hand, he could have stood up for what would have been right for Israel, but he would have run the risk of sparking a crisis with the president without knowing how it would end. After all the benefits he and Israel have received from this president, now was the time for payback. As the saying goes – there is no free lunch.

This doesn’t mean there were not real and valid reasons behind the decision to bar Omar and Tlaib. They are no friends of Israel or the Jewish people. They represent something rotten that is happening within the Democratic Party which has failed to properly condemn the two as was shown when it watered down a resolution brought to the House floor earlier this year after one of Omar’s recent antisemitic rants.

The Democratic Party needs to be confronted and there is no time better than the present. It needs to look in the mirror and ask itself how a faction like this – that champions antisemitism and is on the extreme flank against Israel – has grown from within its midst.

If that happens, it might be the only positive result that comes from this entire story.

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