A senior Democratic lawmaker, who returned from Israel after leading a 41-member delegation, publicly attacked Israel for requesting Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to sign a letter not to engage in provocative anti-Israel activity during a trip she described as being a family visit to see her aging grandmother.Tlaib confirmed in her letter to the Israeli Interior Minister that she would not engage in boycott activities during her visit. When Israel accepted her entry on humanitarian grounds but insisted she not engage in other acts of incitement Tlaib refused to come.
Israel had plenty of authority to ask for such a condition. They are privy to the antagonistic and dangerous itinerary of the planned Omar-Tlaib junket which could have led to violence as result of their visit.
What sounded like a reasonable request blew up when House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who claims to be a staunch supporter of Israel, called the incident disrespectful to Tlaib and to the US Congress.
“Even more disappointing is that, after deciding to allow Rep. Tlaib to visit her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank, the Israeli government required her to sign a letter in some way limiting her actions while in Israel and/or the West Bank,” Hoyer said in a statement, totally dismissing that her request had been made on humanitarian grounds and the condition for her entry was precisely for that stated purpose, and no other.
“To my knowledge, no Member of Congress has ever been asked to agree to preconditions in order to visit Israel. The public release of that letter compounded the unacceptability of this requirement,” he said. “Not only was this request disrespectful of Rep. Tlaib but of the United States Congress as well,” he added, again totally ignoring the fact that Congresswoman Tlaib lied to the Israeli Government when making her personal appeal to enter the country.
So what? No other Member of Congress ever came to Israel to cause such trouble. The disrespect was entirely on Tlaib’s side.
Hoyer had called Israel’s decision to deny entry to the pair “outrageous, regardless of their itinerary or their views.”
There is nothing outrageous in a country defending its right to protect itself and its citizens from harm that would result from the blowback of such a visit. Part of that blowback could potentially have been violence and future terrorism created from miscreants emboldened by the anti-Israel messaging of their American political visitor.
He called Israel’s move “self-destructive,” insisting the Israeli government should “seek to engage these Members of Congress in a dialogue regarding Israel’s security and the future of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Hoyer knew full well that this is what Israel would have preferred but that it was not on the agenda or itinerary of the
Hoyer had no such qualms when the United States banned the entry into America to Israeli lawmaker, Michael Ben-Ari in 2012. The reason they blocked Ben-Ari was because he belonged to Kach, which they designated as a terror organization.
Hoyer, a Congressman at that time, did not plead to allow him into the America on the grounds that it would be “self-destructive” not to allow him to come and speak to Jewish communities. Ben-Ari’s visit was never about attempting to delegitimize and demonize the United States as was the intended visit of Omar and Tlaib.
Hoyer did not describe the United States ban on a parliamentarian from America’s greatest ally, “outrageous, regardless of Ben-Ari’s itinerary or views.”
Truth be told, there is more than a small touch of hypocrisy there.
The political opinions of Ben-Ari, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib may be repulsive to a lot of people, but there is a lot more to this game than American lawmakers being upset with Israel. If that were so, there would be plenty of room for them to censure Omar and Tlaib collectively and individually, which they have not done.
The Democrats are using this incident and Israel as a punching bag to hit out against their political rival, President Donald Trump, by targeting his excellent ambassador to Israel.
Whether they succeed in removing Friedman from his position or not, they will still be left with the wrecking balls that remain within their own party, not with Israel.
Barry Shaw is the International Public Diplomacy Director at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.