Benjamin Netanyahu to decide on allowing US Congresswomen entry for occupation tour

US Rep Rashida Tlaib (Democrat - Michigan) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington (July 15, 2019)

Democratic US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have both been critical of Israeli policy

The National  /  July 18, 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to make the final decision on whether to allow two US Congresswomen critical of the country entry for a tour of the occupied West Bank, according to reports.

Democratic US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women elected into Congress, are organising a visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank soon, according to Israeli media reports, but they may not be let in if Mr Netanyahu decides against permitting their entry.

The move to deny them entry would likely add fuel to a story that has been brewing for months, with the two US politicians criticising the Israeli government’s policies in regard to the Palestinian people.

Both have also been vocal in their support for the boycott movement that aims to hurt Israel economically in hope of the pressure shifting the country’s position on the Palestinian issue. Israel’s right-wing government has passed legislation banning BDS advocates.

Ms Omar has said the trip will focus on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the territory that the Palestinians seek for any future state.

“Everything that I hear points to both sides feeling like there is still an occupation,” she is reported to have said.

Both women have been the subject of criticism from US President Donald Trump over their criticism of American support for Israel. He recently tweeted that the women should “go back” to their countries of origin. Ms Omar is a Somali refugee but Ms Tlaib, of Palestinian descent, was born and raised in the US.

Israel can bar anyone for supporting BDS under its controversial anti-BDS law, but it also can waive the restrictions for any diplomatic figure it wishes to, particularly if not allowing their entry hurts them.

Ms Tlaib views the trip, on which she plans to take a delegation, as a counter to the paid-for visits organised by AIPAC, the major pro-Israel lobbying group in the US.

The trip is expected to take place in August.