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Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely confirmed late Thursday afternoon that US Congress members Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will not be allowed to land at Ben Gurion International Airport due to their active, vocal support of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign against the State of Israel.

“Israel has decided . . . we won’t enable the Congress members to enter the country,” Hotovely told the Kan public broadcasting network. “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle this is a very justified decision.”

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement defending his decision – albeit belated – to block the two lawmakers from entering the country. “There is no country in the world that respects the US and the American Congress more than Israel,” he said. “However, the itinerary showed that the Congresswomen’s sole intention was to harm Israel.”

“Itinerary showed their sole intention was to harm Israel”

“As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country,” Netanyahu pointed out.

“In fact, in the past the US did this to an Israeli member of Knesset, as well as to other public figures from around the world.

“Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel, which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.

“For instance: they listed the destination of their trip as Palestine and not Israel, and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have visited Israel, they did not request to meet any Israeli officials, either from the government or the opposition.

“A week ago, Israel warmly welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who expressed broad bipartisan support for Israel, which was also demonstrated a month ago in a resounding bipartisan vote against BDS in Congress.

“However, the itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.

“In addition, the organization that is funding their trip is MIFTAH, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel. Therefore, the Minister of Interior has decided not to allow their visit, and I, as Prime Minister, support his decision.

Nonetheless, if Congresswoman Tlaib submits a humanitarian request to visit her relatives, the Minister of Interior has announced that he will consider her request on the condition that she pledges not to act to promote boycotts against Israel during her visit.”

American media had described it as “a private trip” organized by a Palestinian Authority NGO, touring parts of Israel and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, including the village where Tlaib has family.

No plans to tour Israeli sites at all

The group was planning to visit PA-controlled areas of Hebron as well as Bethlehem and Ramallah. On Day 2 they were to visit Jerusalem, where they planned to visit the Temple Mount, known as “Haram al-Sharif” to Muslims, meeting with officials to discuss “challenges facing East Jerusalem Hospitals following funding cuts.”

Day 3 included a visit to the Deheisheh “refugee camp” and discussion led by “representatives of refugee and internally displaced communities organized by Ibdaa Cultural center.”

Day 4 included a “briefing with DCI Palestine to discuss prisoner issues and the impact of the Israeli separation on the Palestinians in the village of Nabi Saleh, a visit to the Palestine Museum and Right to Enter meeting at Birzeit University, a meeting with water experts from the Geneva Water Hub and the Palestinian Hydrology Group to “understand water scarcity and access challenges” at the Anera waste water resourcing project site and a working dinner at the Capers Restaurant with MIFTAH’s Board Members in order to “understand the impact of international aid restrictions on Palestinian NGOs.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri made the decision to bar Tlaib and Omar from entering Israel, a move that was fully supported and encouraged by US President Donald Trump, who urged the Israeli government via a tweet not to back down.

The two lawmakers were expected to arrive in Israel on Friday, with heavy pressure being exerted on the government by Jewish Democrats in the United States to allow the anti-Israeli Congresswomen entry.

US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler (D-NY) has responded angrily to the decision, along with numerous other Democrats and liberal Jews.

“The close relationship enjoyed by the United States and Israel should extend to all its government representatives, regardless of their views on specific issues or policies,” Nadler said. “I strongly condemn this decision and urge the Israeli government to allow entry to these Congresswomen and welcome them in the respectful, dignified manner to which they are entitled as official representatives of the United States.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.